‘We can’t have a partially abandoned building site,’ Camden leader tells Whitehall after HS2 delays

Euston station. Photograph: Julia Gregory

A senior politician has hit out at the prospect of a “partially abandoned building site” after years of disruption for Camden residents – as the government announced delays to the completion of HS2.

Whitehall said it would delay the Birmingham to Crewe leg of the multimillion-pound high speed train link between London and the north of England, and could hold up the opening of Euston as it draws up an “affordable and deliverable design”.

Transport minister Mark Harper blamed “Putin’s war in Ukraine, [which] has hiked up inflation, sending supply chain costs rocketing”.

Camden Council leader Georgia Gould said residents living near Euston station “have lost homes, schools and businesses to HS2”.

She added: “They’ve already lived through years of disruption with no end in sight. If there is a delay, HS2 must not forget the promises they made to our community and must continue to deliver on them.”

The government said it “will take the time to ensure an affordable and deliverable design at Euston, with a view to delivering the station alongside high-speed infrastructure to Manchester”.

It said it was committed to the Euston to Manchester HS2 line.

Cllr Gould said Camden residents are fed up with the disruption.

In January, HS2 and the Department of Transport agreed a £29.2m compensation deal with Camden for affected residents, so they can move from their homes near HS2 on the Regents Park estate.

It followed years of campaigning by residents and the council.

One parent said: “My bedroom is next to the HS2 work and it gives me and my family a lot of problems. Sleeping is very difficult. There is noise all day. All the windows are closed all day. When they drill my bed shakes. My blood pressure has gone up.”

Another resident said they were at the end of their patience, telling Camden Council: “I can put up with a lot, but the noise and fumes are about to engulf us. It is going to finish me off. It’s the first time in my life that I feel vulnerable.”

Cllr Gould warned HS2: “What we can’t have is a partially abandoned building site, with huge areas fenced off, creating a barrier between our communities and a general stagnation which leads to opportunities being lost.

“Instead, HS2 Ltd needs to make sure it opens up the site where it is safe to do so and work with our communities on how it can be used during any delay.”

In 2021, HS2 Rebellion campaigners were evicted after they set up a camp and tunnelled under Euston to protest the high-speed railway.

Cllr Gould fears “local roads such as Hampstead Road and Euston Road risk being virtually unusable for years”.

She said: “HS2 must ensure any delay enables the restoration and improvement of this places, by reopening closed pavements and bus stops, and making walking and cycling safer and easier.”

Last year, Transport for London scrapped a bike lane along Euston Road, put in during the pandemic, to make way for heavy vehicles transporting building materials and equipment to the HS2 site at Euston, as well as buses.

Cllr Gould called on HS2 Ltd to use the next two years “to ensure their plans deliver a new Euston Station, which is a fully integrated terminus for both HS2 and Network Rail trains, and allows maximum space for development of new homes, open space and jobs for our communities”.

She said the company must also transport construction waste by rail instead of road “to help protect the health of our residents”.

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