Interview: HS2 development director Rupert Walker on Euston’s new plan

As HS2 prepares to lodge an Additional Provision to the Hybrid Bill now going through Parliament, Euston development director Rupert Walker explains the drivers behind the revised two stage scheme and the challenges that remain.

Rupert Walker, HS2 Euston Development Director

HS2 this week revealed revised plans to construct the new high speed line terminus at Euston in two phases rather than one, in a bid to minimise disruption on the existing train services and maximise the efficiency of the station capacity throughout construction.

Rupert Walker, Euston development director has just delivered the hugely complex Reading Station redevelopment for Network Rail and is now the man driving the development of Euston station and has masterminded the revamped plan to be put before Parliament as part of the Hybrid bill.

This will see six new HS2 phase one platforms constructed on a redeveloped site to the west of the existing station by 2026 ahead of further work to complete the station redevelopment and provide capacity for HS2 phase 2 by 2033.

Interview by Antony Oliver 

You have revealed big changes to plans for redeveloping Euston. Why have you made this decision?

It's important in developing plans for HS2 that we meet the needs of everybody – passengers and the locale community – and ou plans are for a station that will be a place for everyone. That is why we need to make this change to the existing Hybrid Bill.

What are the key benefits?

The benefits are that our new scheme will cause less disruption to rail passengers, will enable us to manage the disruption to the local community in a much easier and better way and mean we can plan for regeneration of the Euston area and Camden. 

What big risks remain?

It is a big construction project and in any construction project there are risks. But we are confident now, that we understand Euston Station pretty much inside out – we understand how it works and what our plans are for it. The work that we have put in over the last year has enabled us to better understand the risks.

You talk about minimising the disruption of this development – is your focus more towards minimising the impact on train passengers, operators and Network Rail rather than the local community – which will now face construction work for much longer.

There is a balance. Delivering any major infrastructure project will cause disruption and there is a balance between the disruption that gets caused to the people that live and work around the station and the people who use the station. That is why we are working with the train operators, Network Rail and passenger forums to understand how passenger impacts are managed and also with the community to understand what their issues are so that we can try to manage those as best as we can.

What is the impact on cost of these changes?

There is a relatively minor impact on the cost of the scheme but the overall cost of HS2 phase One is still within its original budget and isn’t affected by this.

Have you ever considered the option of just stopping at Old Oak Common and so removing this hugely difficult, controversial and expensive part of the project?

That is a really good question but you just can’t do it. You need both Old Oak Common and Euston because we are talking about a massive number of people that will be using HS2 and will be coming to London. Some of them will want to go to west London and so will get off at Old Oak Common. Others will want to get to central London and so will travel into Euston. They go to together – it is not a choice of one or the other.

Why was this scheme not included in the original Bill?

This is a different scheme. While the original scheme met the requirement for HS2 and was within budget it would have been enormously disruptive on the existing railway and it didn’t facilitate the kind of regeneration that we believe is possible – this new scheme does that.

So what happens now?

It is really important the Hybrid bill is passed and we expect that to happen at the end of next year. Then we can get on and build it. We have got to work really closely with Network Rail and with TfL and with the local council to make sure that we develop the very best solution for Euston as a whole. HS2 is just a part of that.

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It is interesting that HS2 acknowledge only now that the original plans would have caused enormous disruption, but this cost does not appear in the business case for the scheme (other than compensation for train companies). It is essential that HS2 revise their business case with an allowance for disruption to services over many years. Building new platforms is one thing but it is the one third reduction in approach lines that causes the real disruption to services and that hasn't changed. We already know that the new services from Blackpool and Shrewsbury will be stopped short of Euston because of HS2 work. Will this also apply in time to some or all Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool services? Dropping the HS1 link saved £700m from the scheme, but we are told that these new plans increase the cost by £250m. An explanation of this corresponds with the statement that the scheme overall is on budget would be helpful.