Published: 20 February, 2014
EXCLUSIVE by TOM FOOT
A MAJOR railway development threatening to devastate Camden Town for more than a decade and to drive traders out of its world-famous markets is set to be dropped, the New Journal understands.
HS2 officials are refusing to deny that its plan to build a “link” through Camden Town to the Eurostar Paris line will be axed in a cost-cutting review next month.
A new design for Euston station is also thought to be included in a raft of significant changes to the £50billion scheme.
HS2 Ltd’s chairman David Higgins, who has been asked to slash the cost of the Euston-Birmingham high-speed rail project, is believed to have singled out the Camden Town section of the route as an unnecessary “luxury”.
The dramatic shift has become an open secret among those connected to the project but HS2 officials are dismissing the current speculation as “curiosity and conjecture”.
The plan has, since 2010, been to send high-speed trains on overground tracks through Camden Market over the Kentish Town viaduct onto the North London Line towards Agar Grove before “linking” up with the Eurostar line. The idea was to allow passengers an uninterrupted journey to the continent.
The “link” would have led to the demolition of the iconic Camden Lock and Camden Road bridges and gridlocked Camden Town, Kentish Town, Chalk Farm with road closures. The knock-on effect would have been “severe” in Hampstead, with hundreds of lorries jamming roads daily and spewing pollution onto the Heath. The cost of the work was budgeted at around £300million.
Market bosses have warned that building a railway through the heart of Camden Town would have forced traders to leave, with the loss of more than 9000 jobs. Independent campaign groups and Camden politicians from all four major parties have taken the fight to central government. It would represent a major campaign victory if the plan was overturned.
The £300million Hawley Wharf development and plans to build a new primary school would not be affected by HS2 if the “link” was scrapped. Camden Road and Camden High Street road closures would be abandoned.
Businesses such as Camden Boxframe, Ivy House Dental Practice and the parade of garages at 120-136 Camley Street would be saved from demolition.
Camden Town Unlimited chief executive Simon Pitkeathley said of the “link” axing: “If true, that would be an amazing result for Camden Town and the businesses who are seriously concerned about their livelihoods. We also thought that if they do the ‘link’ they should do it properly, not some Meccano version.”
Significantly, a top director at Transport for London – which launched a review of HS2 on behalf of Mayor of London Boris Johnson – came out against it at a major public meeting in Primrose Hill last month, saying that the authority was “opposed to the link”, “the business case is weak” and “we also have substantial issues with Euston station”.
But the HS2 project’s threat to the basements of Primrose Hill homes, the parade of houses in Park Village East and Morning ton Crescent, Drummond Street’s historic Indian restaurants and more than 200 homes on the Regent’s Park estate remains.
Camden Council has, since 2011, publicly opposed HS2. But it remains to be seen whether hostility will remain if the “link” is scrapped and major changes to the current plan for Euston station are unveiled in the soon-to-be-published Higgins review.
Council leader Sarah Hayward said: “If it was definitely announced that the ‘link’ was scrapped then obviously we would welcome it. They should invest the money in a better station design for Euston. But I simply don’t think this is tenable, that they think they can cook up plans for Euston and not involve the community in it. Actually, it is an offence to democracy.”
She added: “Our resolve would not wane whatever they come up with for over-station develop ment. Whether it delivers an affordable station and jobs, we will still oppose the impact on housing, open space, the vent shafts, regeneration projects. Whatever they do there will still be a massive cost to Camden.”
Ben Ruse, HS2 Ltd lead spokesman, said: “Given the significance of Sir David Higgins’ initial report, it is only natural there is curiosity and conjecture surrounding different aspects of the project. However, it is important to stress that any thoughts as to content is speculation.”
'WHAT ARE THE VESTED INTERESTS BEHIND DEMOLITION PLANS?'
By TOM FOOT
A TOP expert in engineering has warned that “vested interests” may be driving a plan to terminate the HS2 line in Euston and has swung behind a new station design proposal that would save hundreds of homes from demolition.
Professor James Croll, professor of civil engineering at University College London, is backing the Double Deck Down (DDD) scheme drawn up by Jubilee Line extension engineer Jeff Travers and Euston railway planner Richard Percival.
With major changes to the current Euston station design plan expected to be announced next month, campaigners are turning their attention to the plight of residents on the Regent’s Park estate. More than 200 homes are being demolished to make way for the high-speed railway.
Professor Croll told the New Journal: “A carefully-thought-out phasing of the works could avoid almost entirely any disruption to those living and working in the Camden area. It would avoid almost entirely the need for any demolition of existing housing, recreation space and office buildings west of Euston and allow preservation of the hotels, schools, curry houses.”
Supporters say DDD would be quicker and cheaper to build, would allow HS2 rail work to finish earlier and provide space for “over-station development”. Professor Croll said the changes would preserve the “wonderful heritage bridges” in Mornington Crescent with “greatly reduced construction work” around Hampstead Road.
A potential stumbling block for the HS2 project in Euston has been that Network Rail, which operates the current railway, has said that trains coming out of Euston station cannot be disrupted by HS2 building work.
But Professor Croll said the DDD scheme would allow for the “smooth continuous running” of trains during construction”. He added: “One is left wondering what can be the possible vested interests that are driving what appears to be such an incredibly inefficient and disruptive plan to knock down and rebuild so much of Camden.”
Since 2010, more than £50million in design contracts have been handed out, with Arup already trousering £10million to draw up images of a new Euston station.
Those designs were scrapped in January 2009 after HS2 Ltd changed the scope of the development when costs spiralled from £1.2bn to £2bn. Now, the remit has changed once again and yet another design proposal is expected to be unveiled next month.
HS2 activist Peter Jones, who has set up a new campaign group, SOS Camden, said: “Double Deck Down is clearly better than HS2’s plan and it should be looked at. Let the people of Camden say what we are going to get at Euston.”
The Town Hall has not yet officially endorsed the DDD proposal, despite calling on HS2 to pay for it to employ experts to look at the plan in more detail. Costs of working up the plans could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, according to council leader Sarah Hayward.
She added: “The issue with DDD is that we do not know if it is or is not deliverable. Whatever is built there, there will be construction blight.”
For more information, visit www.soscamden.org
'DDD WOULD SAVE HOMES'
THE Double Deck Down (DDD) scheme is essentially to layer high-speed tracks on top of each other, allowing for a narrower approach into Euston Station.
This would prevent the demolition of 200 homes on the Regent’s Park estate. The design would allow rubble to be taken away by train, which would mean far fewer lorries on roads.
DDD would create a large triangle of “over-station development”, where new homes and businesses could be built.