High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill

Written evidence from Michael Edwards (The Bartlett School, UCL)

Dear Colleagues

High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill

I have worked at UCL within a few metres of Euston for 45 years, been active in local community organisations including the King’s Cross Railway Lands Group and London-wide activity via Just Space . These comments are not made on behalf of any of these organisations but draw on my experience in both and on the policies of both. 

The evidence in the ES and other documents, and in the associated public debates, points strongly to the following as the desirable way forward.  Best option first:

BEST

1.  HS2 cannot sensibly be evaluated in isolation from a wider national transport strategy (including airport strategy) and should thus be rejected completely at this stage. The Committee should thus recommend that work be stopped.

FAILING THAT

2.  HS2 London-B’ham Cost Benefit Analysis/ Business Plan (BCA) shows it is a bad investment, so should be rejected. There are many better ways of spending the money.The ‘alternative’ considered so far is not in fact comparable as the New Economics Foundation has amply demonstrated .  Furthermore backwash effects draining life out of northern regions are likely to overwhelm spread effects benefitting the relative prosperity of northern regions ( as considered for example by Prof John Tomaney ). If the line were to be built it should at least start at the northern end, not the London end.

 FAILING THAT

3.  Old Oak Common is the best place to terminate the LDN-terminating trains. Extension to Euston adds hugely to engineering, displacement, community and environmental costs, while adding benefits only for a small minority of users. Focus on Euston tends to over-concentrate London, while OOC makes London more polycentric which is a stated (but un-realised) aim of London Planning Policy. The Committee should at least insist that the London termination options be more fully evaluated and with a better integration with TfL and GLA plans.

FAILING THAT

4. If HS trains are to terminate at Euston then there must be a full evaluation of the ‘double-deck-down’ alternative design prepared by local expert residents and not yet treated seriously by HS2 Ltd. This would operate within the existing station footprint, thus reducing disruption, and permit Camden council to realise most of its permeability objectives across the site.  It would also permit much more compact and less-polluting interchange with buses and taxis.

AND IRRESPECTIVE OF WHICH EUSTON STATION DESIGN IS SELECTED

5. Provision for mitigation of adverse impacts is not yet adequately promised.  In particular (a) residents of all tenure groups displaced (or whose homes are made uninhabitable during works) must be compensated by actual delivery of equivalent properties at equivalent costs within the locality (if that is where they wish to be) and without inroads into the existing or currently planned housing programme of Camden and social housing providers; (b) businesses to be affected must be similarly treated so that they are no worse off during or after the works than they would be with current conditions continuing.

6. So called "regeneration benefits" do not exist and should be dis-regarded.  The building stock and open spaces of the locality are in tolerably good condition, house thriving economic activities and thriving residential communities.  The station itself is worn out and obsolete and could benefit from re-building and the provision of better services for users.  The only other benefits which could be construed as "regeneration benefits" would be additional accommodation in the air space above the station but such benefits are not dependent on HS2 and have long been planned for.

7.  A particular concern relates to air quality.  Pollution already exceed maximum permitted levels in many parts of the area.  Thus a guiding principle of any design should be to bring about substantial REDUCTIONS in vehicle traffic, especially buses and taxis and (during any construction) lorries.  There is no sign that this has been thought about and every sign at consultation meetings that the engineers haven’t yet thought about the issue.

  July 2013

Prepared 18th July 2013