The designing of the proposed High Speed Two (HS2) rail line is firmly under way. And with 80% of journeys on the new line predicted to start or end in London, its integration into the city’s transport network at its terminus, Euston, will require serious work.
Euston is already the sixth busiest station in the UK, according to the Office of Rail Regulation. So coping with an influx of people could prove tricky without significant improvement. Getting these extra passengers to their final destinations on London’s already overcrowded transport system could prove even more challenging. Passengers could face serious delays accessing the Tube, thereby eating up any time savings made by using the high-speed line.
At least 23,500 people arrive at Euston between 7am and 10am, with almost 30% of these passengers heading to the Victoria and Northern lines’ southbound platforms. Once the London-to-Birmingham high-speed link is up and running, this number is predicted to swell to almost 40,000.
In the second phase of the project, further development of the line will see the high-speed connection serving five extra cities – Nottingham/Derby, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh – and pushing up passenger counts. Once phase two is complete, forecasts suggest more than 55,000 people will arrive at Euston during the three-hour morning peak, as the station attracts a greater share of London-bound passenger traffic.
Peter Moth, senior transport planner at Transport for London (TfL), says: “That is more than twice the current number arriving at Euston. Wait times on the Victoria and Northern lines will be particularly acute. Passengers will have to wait in excess of 30 minutes at the busiest times – that is the equivalent of waiting for 15 trains to pass by before you can board.”
Jim Steer, director of rail industry group Greengauge 21, feels that suggestions of a 30-minute delay at Euston as a result of HS2 are “misleading”. “If you simply put the projected growth of demand at Euston on the use of the Tube and assume that nothing is done to address it, then you would get lengthy delays at Euston, even without HS2,” he says. He argues that plenty of plans are afoot to increase Tube capacity.
Steer adds that analysis by HS2 suggests that the new line will add 2% to the number of passengers at Euston Underground station. “It makes a marginal difference to the level of congestion. But in general, there is going to be a problem of enhancing capacity on the network.”
Whatever the figures, TfL is aware that the social and financial case for HS2 could be eroded unless the high-speed line is integrated into London’s transport network as seamlessly as possible. High Speed Two, the company established by the government to first consider and now develop the line, agrees. In April it began funding a small team of TfL staff to work with it in its London headquarters on the route and station design, and connectivity. Moth is part of High Speed Two’s TfL team, and says the organisation is keen to engage with the issues. “The sooner they get us on their side and inputting into their designs, the better for them.”
TfL should play an important role in making HS2 work. Several key aspects of the high-speed railway’s remit fall within the boundaries of London: the links to Crossrail, Heathrow, and HS1 services for Kent and the Channel Tunnel. But the amount of influence TfL will have over the final designs of the two London stations on the route remains undecided.
Rupert Walker, head of high-speed rail development at Network Rail, says: “It isn’t just about rail connectivity. We need to consider how people will travel to the train and how they travel onwards – other rail, bus or car. The transport integration needs to be carefully planned.”
As well as helping to address the challenges that HS2 will bring for the London network, TfL needs to keep one eye on the growth of the city in the years preceding HS2’s opening and beyond it. By 2030, London’s population is predicted to swell by 1.2 million.
IMechE former president Professor Roderick Smith, chairman of the Future Railway Research Centre at Imperial College London, says that there are issues with the long-term adequacy of the Tube network in London. “If you are taking a 20- to 30-year view, it needs strengthening. That is difficult because it is expensive and potentially disruptive. But at some stage, we’ve got to bite the bullet.” He adds that HS2 could be the catalyst to set things in motion.
At Euston, one plan to improve the connectivity by merging two Tube stations has already been approved by High Speed Two. To accommodate the new link at Euston, the railway track level needs to be lowered. This means the existing Underground concourse will have to be demolished, and a new one built deeper underground. Ideally, the new concourse will be larger than the existing one and have several access points to the HS2 platforms.