HS2 Euston plans to see Camden children ‘spend entire young lives next to construction site’

Sir Keir Starmer gives evidence to the HS2 Select Committee

Sir Keir Starmer gives evidence to the HS2 Select Committee - Credit: Archant

Children in Camden are to spend their entire young lives “knowing nothing other than construction work” should current plans for the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail link go ahead, a parliamentary select committee has been warned.

Thousands of households in the borough will suffer the effects of up to 20 years of major building works, leading to a “major headache” for families and residents.

The stark warnings were issued by petitioners from Camden to the HS2 Select Committee on Tuesday.

The Bill for the proposed Birmingham to London rail link passed its second reading in 2014, with the committee now hearing evidence from interested parties.

The HS2 Euston Action Group, composed of some 28 community groups, urged current plans be abandoned that would see Euston station become the main London terminus for HS2.

The group instead argued an alternative proposal that it said would be less damaging, better connected and save £1.5billion.

It suggested the brownfield site of Old Oak Common – already earmarked as a station on the HS2 line – as the main terminus, with the possibility of some HS2 trains coming down to Euston on existing railway tracks.

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Sir Keir Starmer, MP for Holborn and St Pancras, led the charge against current plans, flanked by former MP Frank Dobson and chair of HS2 Euston Action Group, Robert Latham.

Sir Keir told the committee: “Bringing this railway into Euston is a headache and a half.

“This is a very densely populated area. To say it would have a hugely damaging impact on local communities is a gross understatement, impacting literally thousands of households.

“Some children will be born in the area and grow up knowing nothing other than construction works. Anybody planning to retire in 2016, will probably live out their entire retirement with construction works around them.

“There will also be disruption to existing [transport] services for a very long time.”

Sir Keir went on to argue that passengers getting off at Old Oak Common will get quicker connections to central London than by going on to Euston.

Differing proposals for Euston station have been adopted and abolished some eight times by the architects of HS2 as they struggle to bring a high speed line through a densely populated area.

The current scheme envisioned would see changes to the station done in stages, with the first work beginning in 2017 and lasting beyond 2033. While much of the impact would be felt in the south of the borough, there will be construction work in Adelaide Road and South Hampstead, with HGV routes also earmarked to go up north through Hampstead.

All of this, the group argued, could be alleviated should HS2 stop at Old Oak Common.

But Timothy Mould QC, lead council for the department of transport, said this would be an “intolerable” option.

Current modelling, he said, showed that for 60 per cent of potential HS2 passengers, Euston was the preferred station to Old Oak Common.

He told the committee: “The case for the railway to terminate at Old Oak Common is one which has not only been considered and rejected by the promoters [of HS2] but is also not supported by Transport for London.

“It would cause delays to passenger journeys, take Crossrail completely beyond capacity, [and] we would be left with a railway significantly less resilient.”