Brunelian vision required at Old Oak Common for HS2


This week at Planning Committee along with an article in Tribune l argued that a Brunelian vision is required at Old Oak Common for HS2, if its not to blight the life’s of  Londoners particularly those in Camden. Please find the full content of the article below;

After the second reading of the Hybrid Bill for HS2 in the House of Common and the overwhelming vote in favour by MPs for HS2 despite all the rumours of revolts by them, you would be forgiven if you thought that would be the end of the matter. But clearly the focus now turns to petitioning for mitigation and compensation against it and London needs to keep a look out here as well.

All this while l still have reservations about it all given the huge expenditure of £ 50 billion plus involved at the same time as major public service cuts by the coalition government, it does appear to be “toys for the boys” as the transport lobby made up of big business, civic leaders of Northern cities and construction professionals and contractors demand it as their new train set.  More over on recent rail trips around the country, l have been struck by the under investment in rail infrastructure other part of the country like the East of England and Cornwall. For example it can take you the same amount of time as going to Manchester from London to Norwich even though its only 120 miles away. And before the floods l went to Plymouth via Dawlish where the leader of Council, Tudor Evans stated that £ 150 million was desperately needed to improve the link with Plymouth & Exeter at Dawlish. Till the floods and the damage to the tracks running along the coastline, this had not really registered as something that needed repairing urgently by the public yet alone the government. So not even on cost benefit basis, does it really stand  up to scrutiny when you compare it with all the other rail infrastructure projects you could have funded with such an amount of money across the whole of the country. More so if you compare it against investment levels required to improve say the internet and efficient broadband speeds across the whole of the UK.

Now limiting the impact in London involves making the most of two locations though neither is going to stop the harm that’s going to be done in Hillingdon and in particular, sites of special scientific interest like the Colne Valley.

The first of them is Old Oak Common, a desolate and long-neglected part of W12, much of which is a rail yard with a canal link and derelict warehouses. Yet it has excellent connections with many tube lines; to Heathrow airport; and into central London via the new Crossrail. From this point we go to the second location where we need to limit the impact at Euston. This must be the most difficult and expensive part of HS2, as it knocks a lot of housing, park greens and centres of small businesses as new tracks lead into the station with additional platforms needed as well. The latter impact would be limited with the double deck down option similar to that in Grand Central in NYC where we have 67 tracks on two levels, which would spare the local park, social housing and small businesses in Camden.  If it can be done there a hundred years ago why not now in London particularly when British architects are doing it for the Chinese today?

So as the battle front moves to mitigating the harmful effects of HS2 in London particularly around Euston let us give full consideration to not just double deck at Euston station but also making the most of Old Oak Common, not only as the best way to limit the adverse impact in Camden with a permanent terminus but given the desolate nature of it, as a means of bringing some life back to that part of London. Historically the main rail terminus of London were all built on the edge of an expanding City of London is it proved difficult to go any further. Why not now with Old Oak Common? Which anyway will become a temporally, the terminus to HS2, much like Waterloo had been for Eurostar. Such a Brunelian vision for Old Oak Common would be in keeping with the golden age of the railways and should keep those who want to play with their new train set also happy.