TfL: Old Oak Common Elizabeth line funding ‘essential' to success of HS2

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The government has been told that if a deal is not confirmed soon, "HS2 will not achieve the programme aspirations for Old Oak Common".

Delays to further funding for Transport for London (TfL) will put manufacturing jobs at risk and “undercut” the proposed benefits of HS2 into the capital, the government has been warned.

In a joint letter, TfL, engineering firm Alstom and the Unite union have written to transport secretary Mark Harper urging him to “help save jobs and support growth” by confirming funding to purchase new Class 345 Elizabeth line trains.

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The need for more trains to ferry passengers from Old Oak Common into central London, once the station opens in the early 2030s, has been raised on repeated occasions by TfL and the mayor, Sadiq Khan.

The issue became especially urgent after the government’s announcement earlier this year that west London’s Old Oak Common will be the temporary terminus for passengers travelling into the capital via HS2, until the delayed leg into Euston is complete.

In June, TfL’s chief finance officer, Patrick Doig, told London assembly members: “The critical thing is, even though this is an issue at the end of this decade, we need to make a decision pretty quickly to order some rolling stock.”

He said this demonstrates one of the challenges of “having to make long-term decisions, without having long-term funding certainty”.

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An estimated 250,000 passengers are expected to travel through Old Oak Common every day once it has opened. Credit: HS2.An estimated 250,000 passengers are expected to travel through Old Oak Common every day once it has opened. Credit: HS2.
An estimated 250,000 passengers are expected to travel through Old Oak Common every day once it has opened. Credit: HS2. | HS2

This month, Alstom announced more than 1,300 jobs are at risk at its train-making site in Derby due to work on HS2 being rolled back, with potential further issues if the funding for more Elizabeth line trains, which the company says it is "ready to deliver", is not confirmed soon.

In the letter, penned by TfL commissioner Andy Lord, Alstom managing director Nick Crossfield, and Unite general secretary Sharon Graham write: “Alstom Engineering is ready to deliver additional Class 345 Elizabeth line trains, needed to enable effective operation while Old Oak Common is the terminus of High Speed 2 (HS2). However, in order for Transport for London (TfL) to place the order, we need you to urgently confirm funding for these trains. 

“Without this commitment, TfL is not able to place an order within Alstom’s remaining production window to manufacture the trains in Derby, which will result in the demobilisation of Alstom’s production facilities for the AVENTRA platform of trains.”

Construction work at the Old Oak Common site in west London. The station is expected to open in the early 2030s. Credit: Carl Court/Getty Images.Construction work at the Old Oak Common site in west London. The station is expected to open in the early 2030s. Credit: Carl Court/Getty Images.
Construction work at the Old Oak Common site in west London. The station is expected to open in the early 2030s. Credit: Carl Court/Getty Images. | Getty Images

They write that HS2 terminating at Old Oak Common will place additional stress on the Elizabeth line into central London, due to passengers having to interchange to continue their journey.

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“Relying on the existing services on the Western Route would undercut the benefits brought by introducing high speed rail travel between Birmingham and London; it would be detrimental to the local area, as it would fail to cater for the growing community around the station which has 26,000 homes and 56,000 new jobs in the pipeline; and the consequences would extend to the national economy."

Due to the small size of the necessary order, delaying it would impose high costs on Alstom as it would need to mobilise a new production facility. The letter notes if the current opportunity is missed, “it may be impossible to achieve elsewhere and HS2 will not achieve the programme aspirations for Old Oak Common", saying: "It is essential that government provides assurance that this will not be a potential outcome.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said the government agreed a longer-term funding settlement with TfL in August 2022, providing just under £1.2 billion until the end of March 2024.

Specifically on the calls for funding for more Elizabeth line trains, the spokesperson said: "We have been engaging extensively with TfL and Alstom on this issue for months and are continuing to work with them. A dedicated cross-government taskforce has also been set up to properly support workers during what will be a concerning time. The transport secretary will respond to the letter shortly.”

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The mayor also described the government’s plans for the private sector to pay for HS2 works at Euston as “wishful thinking”, and that if the line is left incomplete, it would be “a betrayal of businesses in London and beyond”.

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