Near empty House of Commons debates HS2 for final time
Transport minister announces possible changes to tunnel at Euston
27 February, 2017 — By Tom Foot
EMPTY green bench after empty green bench– this was the scene in the House of Commons on Monday as MPs debated the future of the High Speed Two (HS2) rail link for the final time before serious work begins on the multi-billion-pound project.
The scheme, which will lead to two decades of disruption and demolition in Camden, with residents and businesses driven from the roads they call home, is officially supported by both main parties – with the exception of rebel MPs who can be found on either side.
In the final debate, transport minister Andrew Jones told MPs that officials were looking at changing the location of the HS2 tunnel portal at Euston, the main terminus for the north-south railway. Mr Jones said: “I can confirm that we are working on the tunnel portal location, but we are not yet in a position to make any announcements. “I recognise that such a change will make a significant difference to many people, but we are working on it…”
Mr Jones was responding to a question from Holborn and St Pancras Labour MP Sir Keir Starmer. Just 20 MPs attended the debate on amendments proposed by the House of Lords following an inquiry last year.
Mr Starmer had asked the minister about “rumours” that HS2 was planning to move the mouth of the tunnel, or portal, at Parkway to a new location “south of Mornington Street bridge”. If approved, the change would bring the tunnel hundreds of metres closer to Euston Station and would significantly reduce the disruption to the “Camden Cutting”, between Park Village East and Mornington Terrace.
Mr Starmer told the debate: “That may seem like a small thing, but to the constituents of Holborn and St Pancras and those living in the area it makes a huge difference. This proposed change has the potential greatly to reduce the damage and disruption to residents of Camden, and is therefore welcome.”
Mr Starmer added that children born this year and next will face “growing up with construction works taking place for pretty well the whole of their childhood”, adding: “This will be the last opportunity I have to raise these concerns on behalf of my constituents.”
New Euston masterplan announced
The Department for Transport and Network Rail this week announced details of a new “master plan” for Euston. A company will be contracted to mastermind the “redevelopment and regeneration of land at Euston Station” and to “generate economic development”.
Artist’s impression of the redeveloped land at Euston Station
The glossy plan says there is a “rare opportunity to create a new quarter of central London” by “optimising the above-ground opportunities” spread over “several million square feet”. It says there is a chance to repeat the perceived successes of King’s Cross and Regent Place, where several major international companies, including Google, have recently relocated