HS2: Rishi Sunak scraps Birmingham to Manchester leg at Conservative Party Conference - but what about Euston?

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The prime minister said the government will “reinvest every single penny” saved from HS2 in hundreds of new transport projects across the country.

After days of rumours circulating around the fate of HS2, prime minister Rishi Sunak finally confirmed at the Conservative Party Conference what many already suspected; HS2 will not be running from Birmingham to Manchester.

The HS2 rail line project aims to create a high-speed, high-capacity and low-carbon-emission railway, but it has been beset by criticism over costs and environmental impact.

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Mr Sunak told those in attendance that the “facts had changed” since the scheme was first announced, “and the right thing to do when the facts change, is the courage to change direction”.

He continued to say the government will “reinvest every single penny” saved from HS2, equating to around £36 billion, in hundreds of new transport projects across the country.

“Every region outside of London will receive the same or more government investment than they would have done under HS2, with quicker results,” he said.

Mr Sunak also confirmed the line will run all the way into Euston, after fears it would terminate at Old Oak Common in west London due to concerns over ballooning costs.

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However, that is not all that he announced when it came to London.

The ‘Euston Development Zone’

The prime minister said the management of the Euston site, which has already undergone extensive work, will be taken away from HS2, and that a new ‘Euston Development Zone’ is to be established in its place.

He told the conference: “The management of HS2 will no longer be responsible for the Euston site. There must be some accountability for the mistakes made, for the mismanagement of this project.

“We will instead create a new Euston Development Zone, building thousands of new homes for the next generation of homeowners, new business opportunities and a station that delivers the capacity we need.

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“And in doing so, for the first time in the life cycle of this project, we will have cut costs.”

Not only that, Mr Sunak said the £6.5bn saved in Euston would be removed and “given to the rest of the country”.

A HS2 spokesperson said they will not be commenting following the prime minister’s speech. The Department for Transport (DfT) meanwhile said no decisions have been made on when the Euston Development Zone will be established, and could provide no further details on what it will actually encompass.

Work on HS2 has been ongoing at London Euston for years, with hoardings visible to those walking past. Credit: Henry Nicholls/AFP via Getty Images.Work on HS2 has been ongoing at London Euston for years, with hoardings visible to those walking past. Credit: Henry Nicholls/AFP via Getty Images.
Work on HS2 has been ongoing at London Euston for years, with hoardings visible to those walking past. Credit: Henry Nicholls/AFP via Getty Images. | AFP via Getty Images

The government had already announced earlier this year that the line into Euston would be delayed to an expected date sometime between 2035 and 2041.

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In the meantime, passengers will have to change at Old Oak Common, located between North Acton and Willesden Junction stations and scheduled to open in the early 2030s, and travel the rest of the journey on the Elizabeth line.

A Public Accounts Committee report in July stated the DfT “still does not know what it is trying to achieve with the High Speed 2 (HS2) station at Euston, despite spending over eight years planning and designing it”.

In her comments, chair of the committee, Dame Meg Hillier, said: “The HS2 Euston project is floundering. This is a multi-billion pound scheme which has already caused major disruption to the local community put on pause.

“The pause, ostensibly to save money, is not cost free – mothballing and possible compensation for businesses which have lost work will all need to be added to the HS2 tally. The government must now be clear what it is trying to achieve with this new station, and how it will benefit the public.”

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While one branded it rubbish and another said they would rather the money was spent on better connections in the north and midlands, similar to what Mr Sunak announced, others were more positive.

“If they’ve already started it, why not finish it? If there’s already so much money put into it, they may as well continue and complete it.”

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