Posted 27th March 2023 | 10 Comments

New warning on soaring costs of HS2 Euston

The National Audit Office is warning that HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport cannot complete the high speed train terminus at London Euston within the existing budget of £2.6 billion, and that the estimated cost now stands at £4.8 billion.

A new NAO report is also warning that budget pressures have been worsened by inflation, which is affecting the DfT’s capital programme. It says the department will need to manage this ‘closely’.

The size of the HS2 station at Euston was reduced from 11 platforms to 10 in November 2020, but it still exceeded the budget by £1 billion.

At the end of December 2022, HS2 Ltd had spent £0.5 billion on HS2 Euston, along with a further £1.5 billion on land purchases and preparatory works for the station and its approaches. This money was taken from the wider HS2 Phase One budget rather than the Euston budget.

The report also says that the revised HS2 Euston design addressed previous issues concerning the design and construction of the station but it did not solve the challenge of designing it within the budget.

Transport secretary Mark Harper announced earlier this month that work on HS2 north of Birmingham was being paused for two years, but the NAO says DfT and HS2 Ltd will also pause the work at HS2 Euston for two years as well, while they look again at how to achieve an affordable design that provides value for money. As a result of this pause there will be additional costs and overall expenditure could increase.

The report concludes that the DfT’s and HS2 Ltd’s attempt to ‘reset the programme’ since 2020 has not succeeded, and that ‘further action is now required to develop an affordable and viable station’.

The head of the NAO Gareth Davies said: ‘Government is once again having to revise plans for Euston HS2. Clearly, the 2020 reset of the station design has not succeeded. DfT and HS2 Ltd have not been able to develop an affordable scope that is integrated with other activity at Euston, despite their focus on costs and governance since 2020. Recent high inflation has added to the challenge.

‘The March 2023 announcement by the transport secretary pausing new construction work should now give DfT and HS2 Ltd the necessary time to put the HS2 Euston project on a more realistic and stable footing. However, the deferral of spending to manage inflationary pressures will lead to additional costs and potentially a more expensive project overall, and that will need to be managed closely.’

Meg Hillier, who chairs the Commons Public Accounts Committee added: ‘Attempts to reset the High Speed 2 Euston station have failed. It is still unaffordable and no further forward than it was three years ago.

‘Today’s NAO report show that the redesigned station would have cost nearly double what was budgeted. The delays to fix this will be felt not only by the taxpayer, but will continue to disrupt people and businesses around Euston.

‘Department for Transport and High Speed Two Ltd have wasted enough time and money. They must get Euston right next time or risk squandering what benefits remain.’

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • John Porter, Leeds

    I agree with James. The target needs to be 3.5 hour regular London to Edinburgh journey times - or better - at modest capital cost to compete with air.
    Before the Goldbourne link (from Hoo Green to Wigan) was postponed HS2 planned to provide 3hr 38min journey times EVERY half hour to BOTH Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Haymarket - without improving the track north of Wigan, but presumably improving the power supply.
    One excuse for postponing that link was to investigate alternative potentially cheaper improvements including other ways of relieving Weaver Junction.
    I look forward to the outcome of that investigation after the General Election.

  • david C Smith, Bletchley

    Yes, the main reason for TGV type speeds is indeed to make journeys of 240 to 500 miles competitive, timewise, with aviation, on city centre to centre basis. This just highlights that the big beneficiaries ought to be Teesside / Tyneside / Scottish central belt. Unfortunately HS2 is aiming at Manchester / Leeds / Birrmingham ( 116 to 189 miles ) with little idea of what potential new market it is aimed at, and as consequence is having to be routed through populous , highly developed country at enormous cost.

    The capacity problem south of Rugby could have been addressed far more cheaply by reusing the ex Great Central route south of Calvert , still open and needing only upgrading , plus a 50 mile rebuild from Calvert to join the WCML south of Nuneaton , most likely as a freight oriented line.with Neasden yard as London terminus.

  • James Hutton, Oxford

    One question: what is the target HS2 timing from London to Edinburgh and Glasgow since speeding up these journeys is what will really reduce air travel within the UK. The record London to Edinburgh is 3.5 hours, achieved by running at up to 140 mph/ 225 kph. Making this into a regular timetable is surely achievable for a modest, relative, cost?

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    The biggest enemy of, and contributor to excess costs of, government projects is the government itself.

  • John B, London

    Far more fitting for this ridiculous project to terminate at OOC for an hourly shuttle service to East Midlands Parkway.

  • Chris Jones-Bridger, Buckley

    What a mess & rather undermines any Govt pronouncements to improve the fabric of the nation's infrastructure.

    Enabling works are already well advanced at Euston & the operational capacity of the existing station has been reduced & compromised for the duration of the rebuilding work. It also raises questions as to how budgets for multi year or indeed multi decade projects are set especially when Inflation is running at rates not seen for several decades. Clearly as we have seen in all walks of life the Treasury has the upper hand in spending decisions &
    shortermism rules. The constant changing in ministerial personal at DfT cannot have helped. As in all aspects of transport policy prevarication & delay have been the order of the day resulting in increased cost all round to the detrimental of the taxpayer & travelling public.

    For HS2 to fulfil it's intended objective it needs to absorb the long distance inter city services from the three great Euston Rd termini of Euston, St Pancras & Kings Cross. As conceived Old Oak Common cannot achieve that. As a terminus it can only act as a stop gap. Let it also be noted that once construction at OOC is underway it will impact the GWML while the interchange is constructed disrupting services to/from Paddington.

  • John Porter, Leeds

    Ten platforms are needed at High Speed 2’s (HS2’s) Euston terminus because of the ambitious frequency of HS2’s illustrative timetable and the 5 to 8 minutes lost when dividing/rejoining train units. HS2 allowed 25 minutes to turn trains around, which allows for trains up to 10 minutes late and 55 minutes for Scottish trains.
    HS2's last illustrative timetable assumed the following 18 hourly service
    arrivals (LH column). and departures (RH column) from Euston
    xx01. Newcastle. 8 coaches. xx26. Platform 4
    xx05. Birmingham. 16 coaches. xx30. Platform 9
    xx08. Scotland 16 coaches. xx03. Platform 5
    xx11. Liverpool. 8 coaches. xx06. Platform 8
    xx15. Manchester. 16 coaches. xx10. Platform 3
    xx18. Leeds. 16 coaches. xx43. Platform 7
    xx21. SPARE. 8 coaches. xx46. Platform 6
    xx25. Birmingham. 16 coaches. xx50. Platform 1
    xx28. Newcastle. 8 coaches. xx53. Platform 10
    xx31. Sheffield/Leeds. 16 coaches. xx56. Platform 4
    xx35. Manchester. 16 coaches. xx00. Platform 9
    xx38. Scotland 16 coaches. xx33 Platform 2
    xx41. Liverpool/Lancaster 16 coaches. xx06. Platform 8
    xx45. Birmingham. 16 coaches. xx10. Platform 3
    xx48. Leeds. 16 coaches. xx13. Platform 7
    xx51. Stoke/Macclesfield 8 coaches. xx16. Platform 6
    xx55. Manchester. 16 coaches. xx20. Platform 1
    xx58. York/Sheffield. 16 coaches. xx23. Platform 10

  • David Ian Trigg, Spondon, Derby

    Ten platforms at Euston! Why? When 'EuroStar' was operating at its peak from Waterloo, and later at St Pancras International, it never needed ten platforms.
    With one train out, then one in, just what would be the minimum number of platforms required?
    If trains are eventually running to East Midlands and Manchester, many via Birmingham, how many trains will be required for Birmingham only, how many trains will be required, per hour, anyway?
    Will the 'peak' number of passengers require full length train sets, or could half size 'coupled' sets run to Birmingham, where the rear set would then continue to East Midlands or Manchester? And return to 'Brum'.
    Just when would the likes of Liverpool, Glasgow/Edinburgh, Leeds and Newcastle get HS2 Sets running from/too services? If ever!
    A few questions to for your 'thinking caps' to answer, so, make a drink, and don your 'caps'.

  • James Hutton, Oxford

    Perhaps the pause is an opportunity to reconsider terminating at Euston and look at Paddington instead. The interchange options at Paddington have been dramatically improved with the Elizabeth Line completion and the budget for tunnelling to Euston might cover the cost of an underground station for HS2.

  • Alastair Brown, Rutherglen,GLASGOW

    Is it time to draw a line under this entire project? Complete what is underway, which will provide a high speed shuttle between London and Birmingham, and consider integrating that infrastructure with the existing network to provide additional capacity for fast intercity services?