The chair of a group of 12 central London local authorities has said “it is now clear” that the government’s recent decision to further delay work on the High Speed 2 (HS2) railway, intended to connect London, the Midlands and parts of northern England, will add to the cost of the project and mean “years of disruption to central London residents and years of pressure on Transport for London services”.
Kieron Williams, who chairs the Central London Forward group, was responding to claims by shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh that Department for Transport officials had advised that holding back building the links between Birmingham and Crewe and, in London, between Old Oak Common station at the edge of the city and a new terminal at Euston station in Camden, would add to the already-ballooning price of the new railway rather than reducing it, as the government has said.
In line with Haigh’s remarks, which were based on what she said was a leaked document, Williams, who is also the leader of Southwark Council, warned that putting back the HS2 construction programme “will put jobs and businesses at risk across the country” and said the government’s move “is bad for London and bad for the north too”, with an undermining effect on growth and public finances”.
Henri Murison, head of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said at the time of the government’s announcement that it was “disappointing” and “holds back economic benefits”.
Central London Forward describes itself as a pro-growth “sub-regional partnership” between Camden, Islington, Lambeth, Southwark, Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster, Wandsworth, Lewisham, Hackney, Haringey, Tower Hamlets and the City of London Corporation.
The expected price of completing HS2 is now put at £71 billion compared with the estimate of £33 billion when the project was begun in 2010. The original Y-shaped route, with a link between London and Birmingham and connections from there further north to Manchester and Leeds, has already been reduced with most of the section to Leeds scrapped in 2021.
The HS2 company has spent £1.25 billion on buying property in London to make way for the route, resulting in a large building site being created in Camden, but it now seems likely to be around 2040 before the railway comes to Euston and there is speculation that it will never happen.
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