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.
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”
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
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.