Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Special report | High Speed 2's Euston challenge

7 hs2 southern entrance low res

High Speed 2 (HS2) client HS2 Ltd has begun its toughest challenge yet, inviting contractors to bid for £3bn worth of work on the two biggest stations in phase 1.

The winning bidders will manage the works programmes for Euston Station and Old Oak Common, the two stations in London. They will also procure, integrate and manage the supply chains.

Both sites come with huge challenges, but Euston is the real headache.

10 gal 12016 euston hs2 cam04 notrain 011

10 gal 12016 euston hs2 cam04 notrain 011

Computer image of the Euston terminus

Euston station will be the gateway to the new £56bn rail line. But transforming it from its current depressing 1960s “grey brick” overcrowded state to an iconic station is acknowledged as the most complicated part of building the whole project.

The works will cost £1.65bn, and HS2 Ltd  is currently fighting to get support from the local community surrounding it, as well as from the travelling public using the existing Network Rail Station.

Fear was struck into the community around Euston when plans for the station were published in the hybrid bill. Work involved demolishing three important bridges on the approach to the station and would have caused untold disruption to the local communities. Network Rail’s operations would also have been badly disrupted as platforms would have had to be taken out of service to accommodate the HS2 work.

But New Civil Engineer can reveal that design changes since then mean a “significant reduction” in the disruption to the station and the surrounding community.

HS2 Ltd programme director phase 1 – south, Rob Carr, says that the hybrid bill set out the “worst credible case”, but now Royal Assent has been granted, the design has been refined.

Revised plans

Under the original plans, the HS2 tracks came into the station at approximately the same level as the platforms neccesitating the bridge demolition. Now the tracks will be lowered by around 500mm at the north end of the approach and the approach tunnels will be elongated to extend underneath Mornington Street Bridge. The consequence of this is the tracks will be low enough to pass under the existing Granby Terrace and Hampstead bridges without the need to demolish and rebuild them. The trains will then be brought up to platform level on a slope.

Swns rob carr 26 cropped

Swns rob carr 26 cropped

Carr: Reduced disruption

Carr says despite technical issues regarding the ramp, the vastly reduced disruption was seen as the favourable option. Over the next year, Carr hopes the design will be further refined by whichever contractor is chosen for the Euston project.

“As a result of these changes, we can leave the existing bridges in place and we only have to build extensions up to them,” he says. “That might not sound like a lot, but it means we reduce the disruption to the rail passengers by 60%, remove the need to shut the station every bank holiday for the next seven years and move it to minimal disruption.”

Minimising disruption

To further minimise disruption, the piling line for the new HS2 station has been moved from underneath the tracks on platform 18 on the Network Rail side to underneath the adjacent Cardington Street pavement, separating the two sites. The knock-on effect of this change is huge, he says.

“We now don’t have to put 28 sets of switches and crossings in the throat just to deal with what we were going to do,” he says.

“We’re moving our station off to the side so we can build our station without much, if any, change to the existing station now.”

Disruption to the existing station will now be limited to the enabling works needed to move a Network Rail power signal box on the HS2 site to a temporary site on the other side of the station.

Carr is hoping this change will go some way to winning over the local community, a key part of ensuring success during construction and in operation.

“It’s quite a challenge and we have lots of people who overlook that area who are very worried. We are working very hard to build that trust and overcome those fears,” says Carr. “I’ve been to other sites where they aren’t doing half as much as we are.”

Euston Timeline

December 2017

  • Design assurance completed

January 2018

  • Invitation to tender for construction partner
  • Station designers appointed
  • Euston master development partner appointed

September 2018

  • Construction partner appointed

January 2019

  • Planning application submitted

Early 2019

  • Designer novated to construction partner team

July 2019

  • Piling work starts on site


  • First passengers travel on HS2

He is also hoping he can woo the public with his vision of creating a new and vibrant green space.

A newly formed tree panel comprising staff from HS2’s environmental team and representatives from the local council and the local community is now forcing contractors to think before taking out each and every tree on the site.

Carr says he wants a contractor team which will collaborate, come up with brilliant ideas to drive down cost, shorten the schedule and reduce the impact on residents, passengers and the public.

“It’s back to those brilliant ideas and the willingness to push the boundaries of it to get the right solution, not just for the High Speed 2 railway but minimising disruption to the local residents particularly in the Euston throat.”

Old oak

Old oak

Computer rendering of Old Oak Common site

Contractors will be rewarded for such thinking.

Using the recently appointed civil works contractors as an example, he says they share 50% of any savings made. Although the contracts for Euston and Old Oak Common stations cannot go down the same design and build route due to the timescales for both, he says there will be incentives for the contractor to save time and cost.

He also wants  contractors who have built stations overseas to bid for the role, citing the newly completed Rotterdam Station as “eye-wateringly” cheap to build.

Integrating operations

In the emerging picture of the new station, the new HS2 concourse will be combined with the Network Rail concourse at ground level. This will create the north- south connectivity the community was so worried about losing. Carr admits the east to west connectivity is more of a compromise, but says it will still exist with a route through the over site development and a street slightly further north.

A joint operations room for Network Rail and HS2 is also on the table, with Carr saying it is an “intrinsic requirement” to be able to manage the station as a whole in the event of an incident.

Crossrail 2 is also being taken into account, although no works will be put in place for the scheme.

“We aren’t going to put anything in for Crossrail 2, but you will be able to knock through a wall and interface with it straight away,” says Carr. “We will allow for it and not preclude it.”

Over site developments

At Euston, provision for the over site development will be built into the design of the station. A masterplan is currently being developed by concept designer for the station, WSP in conjunction with project partner, Wilkinson Eyre. Carr says the Treasury has set aside a “significant budget” to pay for the enabling works for this. This budget is on top of and will sit outside the £56bn funding for HS2. Carr argues this makes sense because the government’s interest in the scheme is wider than building a railway interchange.

“It’s the value in terms of job creation, businesses and tax receipts on the back of that,” he says. “They are looking at it much more holistically, saying ‘let’s provide some seed funding that then enables the transformation of this area of London, which is one of the biggest development sites available’.”

At Old Oak Common, the story is slightly different. The over site development is more of a long term plan, says Carr. Of the £1.3bn set aside for Old Oak Common in the European Union’s Official Journal procurement notice, around £300M is allocated to other developments such as a new interchange with the Chiltern Line, and an over site development conditional on an external body stumping up the cash.


Timescales explained

In a change to the original plan, the appointment of the master development partner for Euston has been changed to align it with the invitation to tender for the construction partner.

Now the winner from the three developers still in the running for the role, will be able to apply for the construction partner role.  

Carr says the role of the designer will be to take the design to RIBA 3 stage and get a successful planning application in January 2019.

Float has been left in the system for it to fail once, but Carr hopes that by working with Camden Council from an early stage will mean it will pass through first time.

At each stage Carr says collaboration between the teams will be essential. As part of the conditions of the contract, the appointed designers and contractors have had to sign up to co-locate their teams. Carr says this is essential to get the best possible outcome for the design.  

“In reality when the construction partner is appointed in September 2018, the designer will have been in full flow,” he says. “Therefore we will be looking to put them together in a co-location office so they start that conversation straight away and build constructability into the design.

“By the time we get to 18 months’ time the ability to make the big changes that really improve the lives of residents and people around the station, will be gone and we will be stuck with what we’ve got and we will have to deliver it against the existing schedule.”

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.