Transport for London (TfL) was kept in the dark as Number Ten drew up its controversial plans to axe all government funding for the Euston HS2 terminus and dramatically scale back the station scheme, the agency’s commissioner Andy Lord confirmed at today’s meeting of the TfL board.
Lord (pictured) was briefed about the decision by rail minister Huw Merriman only after Rishi Sunak announced on 4 October that the terminus would be cut back from 10 platforms to six, that a link to Euston Square Tube station would be scrapped, and that no public money would be available for the scheme, he said.
Little further information has been forthcoming, he added, setting out a list of concerns ranging from the wider implications of the funding changes for the scheme’s stakeholders, to questions about service frequency at Euston in the future, levels of overall transport demand in the area and how the 10,000 new homes proposed by Sunak for the site could be built when current plans estimate just 2,000 being constructed there.
“I have made the point very strongly that TfL must be actively involved in the key decisions and how we will work together quickly to try and move forward,” Lord said, adding that an urgent deal with the government was needed on cash for extra Elizabeth Line trains to get HS2 passengers from the proposed interim terminus at Old Oak Common to central London.
Lord’s report to the board also confirmed that TfL had been working on cost-saving options for the terminus with HS2 Ltd and other stakeholders, including Network Rail and the Department of Transport (DfT) itself, as part of a “reset” following the two-year pause in the project ordered by the government in March. A feasibility study had been submitted to the DfT before Sunak made his announcement.
The DfT, too, may have been blindsided by the Prime Minister’s announcement: less than a month ago, officials from the department told MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that their target date for reaching agreement on an affordable terminus scheme was Summer 2025.
Sunak’s new suggestion that the station and the wider regeneration of the area can be paid for with the proceeds from selling adjacent government-owned land is in sharp contrast to the veto the Treasury imposed on such an approach in 2021, when he was Chancellor. In April of this year, the House of Commons public accounts committee (PAC) heard from DfT permanent secretary Bernadette Kelly that the block was still in place at that time, as confirmed by the committee’s subsequent report, published in July. Further details may come when DfT and HS2 bosses appear before the PAC on 23 November.
The TfL board also heard that Elizabeth line ridership has continued to break records, with more than 230 million journeys taken on the service to date – an average of 4.1 million passengers a week – and that the final cost of the project is now £100 million below on the outcome forecast when TfL took full control of it in 2020.
Chairing the meeting, Sadiq Khan said this was an example of how TfL could help government with HS2. “When Crossrail Ltd were in charge of this, they were basically thinking about throwing the towel in,” he said. “We took it over and got a grip of costs. There are lessons we can show the government, in a non-patronising way, on how you can finish these things.”
There was also news about the latest expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, with TfL customer and strategy chief Alex Williams confirming that a comprehensive report on the first month of its operation will be available in the next two weeks.
The full TfL board meeting can be viewed here. X/Twitter Charles Wright and On London. If you value On London and its writers, become a supporter or a paid subscriber to Dave Hill’s Substack for just £5 a month or £50 a year.