Most of the “significant” changes “unveiled” to the London-Birmingham high-speed rail route by the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, today aren’t very significant, and nor were they unveiled today. They are in fact largely the changes unveiled in the so-called “supplementary report” published by HS2, the line’s promoters, back on 8 September. This is the kind of spin that used to give New Labour a bad name.
But there are at least two interesting and significant alterations that we hadn’t heard about before. Along the Northolt corridor and in the west London suburb of Ruislip, where seven streets were said by the council to be “at risk,” the land take has been reduced a bit, sparing by the looks of it most of the properties to be demolished (though not always their gardens, and of course the lucky inhabitants will still have a high-speed railway roaring right past them.) Download the map of the line here (it is the one ending 04004).
And just out of Euston, the line of the HS2 tunnel which was to have passed right under the upmarket Primrose Hill district has now been moved a bit to the north. It now runs beneath Gloucester Avenue, on the edge of the neighbourhood, and closer to the existing surface railway line. (Download here – the one ending 04001.)
Several hundred Primrose Hill houses could still suffer vibrations from the tunnel. Estimates published on the HS2 website (p23 of slides) are that properties within 100 metres are at risk. There will also be a new tunnel portal surfacing from the line on to the existing rail network near the Regents Park Road railway bridge, causing more disruption during building work.
But the line no longer goes right under the heart of Primrose Hill, nor does it pass directly beneath the houses of Dame Joan Bakewell, Robert Plant and Adam Ant (it still goes fairly near David Miliband’s gaff, alas.) Isn’t it great what fear of celebrity lobbying can do for you?
Sadly, in order to accommodate this change, the HS2 tunnel now curves into the southern end of a whole new wealthy neighbourhood, Belsize Park, going under Fellows Road and bringing upmarket Eton Avenue within vibration range. However, most of the new people impacted are council tenants on an estate along Adelaide Road.
Nor, though the Government may have taken fright at the massed ranks of the Primrose Hill brigade, has it done anything for a much poorer neighbourhood which will be far worse affected.
Just west of Euston station, five council blocks of the Regents Park Estate, with 220 flats and at least 500 residents, will be demolished to accommodate a widened station “throat.” From the plans, that looks like it hasn’t changed. And Euston itself will still be extended some hundreds of feet to the west, swallowing up at least a further 20 homes, 25 businesses including two major hotels, and most of a park, St James’s Gardens.
Less aggro for rich people – poor people treated even worse. Could this be Conservative government in action?