Saturday, 21 January 2012

On HS2 and Euston (part 2)

I wrote about a month ago on this topic, questioning the need to build HS2 from Old Oak Common to Euston ( However, I'm delighted to see that HS2 phase 1 (London to Birmingham) has been approved. Not so Stop HS2. I saw this banner at West Ruislip on 13 January:

It's time for Stop HS2 to negotiate for benefits (such as a station in Buckinghamshire) and amend the party line. And as they must move on, so shall I.

Firstly, a central area Tube Map courtesy Transport for London (TfL). If you don't know the lines as well as me, you may want to refer to it when you read this article. Waterloo is one station south of Embankment on the Northern and Bakerloo lines (the black and brown ones):

I've seen a fair amount of talk around Euston being full when HS2 arrives. Ken Livingstone has argued that HS2 should go to Waterloo rather than Euston ( although it isn't clear whether this proposal involves a 180 degree turn to reuse the former Waterloo International platforms, abandoned when HS1 moved to St Pancras International. I would hope not: one of these platforms is planned to be brought back into use in 2014 ( and we can easily move from a "Euston is full" to a "Waterloo is full" debate.

In the meantime Boris Johnson has added his argument to the debate. Reading , Boris is arguing for a "north-south Tube line" to relieve the crowding. Quite what this means I'm not sure. And, as I noted in a comment to my last article, the deputy chairman of TfL is saying that the wait for a Victoria Line train will be 30 minutes by 2033 if nothing is done to alleviate the crowds ( ).

In response (see the Telegraph article above), HS2 Ltd. said that the increase to Tube traffic at Euston caused by the first phase of HS2 would be only 2%. These statements cannot all be true, or their must be assumptions which are not stated here. Let's start with some facts. TfL's stats for 2010 ( ) say that there were 12,790 entries to Euston Tube station in the morning peak on average in 2010. But going back to the Telegraph article above, HS2 Ltd. estimate that HS2 will bring an extra 13,400 people to Euston in the morning peak. Granted some will catch buses, taxis or walk, but that looks like double, not 100%. And that's without any growth prediction. It's certainly a lot more than 2%. What's going on?

To attempt to understand this, I've gone back to the Department for Transport (DfT) economic case for HS2
( A few paragraphs help us to understand what's going on:

"As a result of HS2, the number of passengers per day using Euston Mainline Station is expected to increase by 32,000. Surveys of current passengers at Euston suggest around 62% of passengers would arrive or depart by London Underground in the three hour morning peak. With HS2 this would mean 5,500 additional passengers using Euston Underground Station in the morning peak period."

"Both the Northern and Victoria lines which stop at Euston are likely to be heavily overcrowded by 2043 even without HS2. Although the introduction of HS2 will add to this pressure, the number of passengers added by HS2 is likely to be relatively small (around 2%) compared to the number of passengers already forecast to be on London Underground services passing through Euston."

So the figure of 13,400 is presumably a total passing through the station, which isn't relevant. I'll work with 5,500 even though the arithmetic is wrong (62% of 13,400 is 8,308). But it's clear that the 2% relates to people passing through Euston - so it includes people already on the Northern and Victoria Lines and not changing. Not much use in determining the crowding on the platforms. And 2% relative to 2043, by which time huge growth is predicted on both the Northern and Victoria lines, is more than a little unhelpful.

The important date, of course, is 2026, when the first phase of HS2 is planned to open. HS2 Ltd. plan to run 11 trains per hour (tph) in the peaks, four terminating at Birmingham and seven continuing further north-west along the classic lines. When HS2 reaches Leeds and Manchester in 2033, there will be 18 tph in total. So we should take the 5,500 figure pro rata: this gives roughly 3,350.

Also, given that actual predictions are difficult to find, let's take the actual figures from 2003 to 2010 and project based on this (source TfL):

So we are looking at a base figure of 20000 as well as the extra 3350 introduced by HS2. In other words, if these figures are correct, we are looking at almost double the numbers entering the tube station in 2026 at the morning peak as there are today, and the 2% figure quoted by HS2 Ltd. is somewhat irrelevant to the scale of overcrowding: the peak is three hours, so we need to find an extra 3800 spaces on the Northern and Victoria lines per hour on (largely southbound) trains that will already be full. This clearly won't work without some mitigation. 

It has been suggested by the high speed rail consultancy Greengauge21 ( that some of Crossrail's spare Western capacity should be diverted to the West Coast Main Line. The initial plan is to run 24 tph through the central tunnel from Royal Oak to Whitechapel, but to terminate all but 10 of these west of Paddington. I argued in my original article that this wasn't the best use of the Crossrail capacity, and that it would be better to use it to develop the Chiltern Line market. However, it has to be worth examining.

Map of current plan for Crossrail, courtesy

If you look at the DfT figure for onward travel from Euston, 38% of passengers arriving at Euston do not travel onwards by Underground. While it is arguable that those arriving from afar by HS2 in the morning peak would be more likely to travel onwards by tube, this would be less likely to apply to suburban traffic. The point I am making is that Euston has a market, and you cannot remove all local trains without causing inconvenience. So let's say that we keep the Watford Junction to Euston service, and divert 7 tph at peak (four from Milton Keynes, three from Tring). That would be about 1,400 people given these services run on four-car trains (, maybe 1,750 people as trains into London are often full and standing. In any case, it is far short of the footprint created by HS2 in 2026. While this may be a way of allowing the expanded Euston to be built without creating chaos, it seems to be far from ideal.

So what do we need to make this work? Firstly a tunnel to provide a 24 tph service across a central core from north of Euston to south of Waterloo. You run the 7 tph from Tring and Milton Keynes with the 3 tph from Watford Junction through the tunnel. You send them somewhere to the south-west of Waterloo on suburban services. It doesn't matter where: the Thameslink Programme was built with the idea of "we'll sort the service patterns out later". We still don't know for certain where all the trains will be going, but we do know that there will be 24 tph through the central tunnel.

This doesn't cater for the footprint of HS2 either, and arguably it puts more pressure on the Victoria line if done in isolation than moving services on to Crossrail, as you now have an extra 13 tph coming into Euston with potential passengers. However, there is an obvious way around all this which I've not seen suggested. The footprint associated with the redevelopment of Euston is huge, and costly. Yes, the building is hideous, as is much around it, but its removal will not help commuters to arrive at work on time. If it could be curtailed at the current 18 platforms rather than the planned 24, wouldn't that mean that we didn't need to rebuild?

So where do I put the other six platforms? Underneath Waterloo station (and underneath Euston station to prevent service pollution). This way people heading for the City and Canary Wharf can change at Tottenham Court Road for Crossrail, and the numbers changing at Euston are dramatically reduced. Even the numbers heading for the Victoria Line will be reduced, as anyone heading west on the Central Line from Oxford Circus can change at Tottenham Court Road. Whether this is sufficient to avoid the building of a new line from Victoria to Euston to relieve the Victoria Line in the long term is debatable, but it should be enough to move its opening post 2026. And what else have we done here? Created the potential for a high speed link from the North through to East Croydon and Brighton, removing another notorious bottleneck.

Going back to my original article, do I prefer terminating HS2 at Old Oak Common to what I am suggesting here? Probably, because I deliver many of the benefits at less cost. But, unlike Stop HS2, I'm pragmatic. I'm now seeking to obtain the best solution given the decisions made. Stop HS2 would do well to learn from that lesson.

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