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Euston to be Labour high speed rail hub

Britain’s £30bn high speed rail line from London to Scotland will be centred on Euston station and not Heathrow airport, transport secretary Lord Adonis revealed this week.

Adonis has rejected the Arupled Heathrow Hub option preferred by the Conservatives in favour of a London Euston terminus supplemented by an interchange with Crossrail to the west of Paddington station.

Travel times from this interchange at Old Oak Common to Heathrow airport using Crossrail would be around 10 minutes.

The decision was announced in a government Command Paper published last Thursday, in which a 536km long, Y-shaped high speed network is outlined.

It will cost £30bn to build and will link London and Birmingham before splitting to serve Manchester to the north west and the East Midlands, Sheffield and Leeds to the north east.

High Speed map

Adonis said he had “huge respect” for Arup, but said that the government’s High Speed 2 (HS2) company set up to investigate a new network had found there was only a weak business case for a Heathrow Airport station.

Such a station would be tunnelling intensive and would cost a hefty £2bn more to build, it said. Adonis said that even if built, a shuttle service would still be needed to take passengers from the Arup-proposed station 4km north of the airport perimeter to its five terminals.

He added that the site would throw up “a lot of issues” because it is in the green belt, on a flood plain and sandwiched between the M25 and M4 motorways and the Great Western rail line.

“There is no single place called Heathrow,” Adonis said. “The Conservatives are quite wrong to say they support a station at Heathrow. [Their] proposal is not for a station at Heathrow - it is 2.5 miles (4km) away.”

“The Conservatives are quite wrong to say they support a station at Heathrow. Their proposal is for a station 4km away”

Lord Adonis

But Adonis made a tactical political move by saying was not “closed minded” over the Heathrow issue and has instructed former transport secretary Lord Mawhinney to look again at the options for building an integrated transport connection at the airport.

The Hub plan had gained popularity because of its direct connections to Great Western rail services, Crossrail and the proposed Airtrak scheme that would link Heathrow Terminal 5 to the existing rail network to the south and west, including Reading, Guildford and London Waterloo.

Arup said it welcomed the report and said that it would be keen contribute to Mawhinney’s review.

“As the firm that secured the alignment for the UK’s only existing high speed rail line - HS1 - Arup is committed to seeing the best possible next steps for high speed rail delivered for Britain, for which the route alignment is key.

“We look forward to contributing to the review, led by Lord Mawhinney, to ensure the best high speed alignment is selected for passengers, businesses and the environment,” it added.

High Speed journey times

London to Birmingham
49 minutes

London to Manchester
1 hour 20 minutes

London to Sheffield
1 hour 15 minutes

London to Leeds
1 hour 20 minutes


Choosing Euston station as the terminus rules out a direct link with the HS1, which terminates at St Pancras.

The plan, also developed by Arup and promoted by architect Sir Terry Farrell, includes the potential for a rapid transit link for pedestrians travelling the few hundred metres between Euston and St Pancras.

It also includes new underground platforms, a remodelled and expanded Tube station and bus and taxi interchanges.

Adonis said he had not given up on the idea of a through link from HS2 to HS1. He said he has instructed HS2 chief engineer Andrew McNaughton to look into a firm proposal linking the two lines as well as the rapid transit connection.

The first phase

The first stretch from London to the West Midlands broadly matches Network Rail’s proposal and is expected to cost between £15.8bn and £17.4bn.

Adonis said it was vital that it was a state-led project with the majority funded from the public purse but that he envisaged there would be “substantial” private investment.

Up to 10% of this section would be in tunnel and Adonis said the planned start of construction in 2017 was timed to allow tunnelling capacity to switch from Crossrail.

It is hoped the first trains would start running in 2026 with trains capable of running at 400km/h.

Beyond the West Midlands high speed trains would initially run on conventional lines through to Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Luke O'Rafferty

    I understand the view that to reduce the number of short haul flights throughout the UK, that it makes sense to connect our international airports together with high speed rail (funnily enough it was Arup's Peter Head that I heard expressing this view). However the idea of being able to get from London to Glasgow in 2 and a bit hours or Paris in 2 and a bit hours, but taking an hour to get across London between these lines is crazy. Makes much more sense to me to have HS1 and HS2 connected, though this proposal at least means the gap is reduced to a few minutes walk.

    I would prefer to see the timescales reduced however. I'll be interested to see how the budget looks at the end of the month, but I'd like to see the UK take the lead from China who are spending a good proportion of GDP on high speed rail and just getting it done.

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  • The problem with through running from HS1 to HS2 is of course that all the HS2 stations served by through continental trains would have to have passport control / immigration / customs etc. On that basis I agree a link between HS1 and 2 is needed for freight, but not for passengers. As long as the indicated 'rapid transit' between Euston and St Pancras is exactly that, then I don't see a problem - no worse than crossing Paris betwen different TGV termini.

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  • I refer to the debate about HS2 and Heathrow. When the new Heathrow Station was constructed it was with 4 platform faces, of which only 2 are currently in use.

    On leaving the existing Airport Station the HS2 line would then swing north, in tunnel and follow the alignment of the former railway lines to and beyond Uxbridge to Denham. As the trains would be travelling at a lower speed approaching and departing from the station the curvature could be at a lower radii than that envisaged elsewhere.

    From Denham HS2 would follow the alignment of the existing Chiltern Railways line through Gerrard’s Cross, Beaconsfield and High Wycombe. It would be in tunnel under those towns and, like Chiltern Railways, would not break the escarpment of the Chiltern Hills as the present proposal does. The existing trains that terminate at Heathrow would continue to Reading picking up the alignment of the Great Western main line at West Drayton.
    The Hub would be AT Heathrow Airport not beside the Great Western mainline, 4 km away and would really be an integrated transport hub.

    Allan Carter

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