Transport secretary dismisses fears developers won’t pay for HS2 tunnel to Euston

The government was recently warned the private sector would not agree to pay for the tunnel connecting Euston with Old Oak Common in West London, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Euston Station and (inset) Transport Secretary Mark Harper
Euston Station and (inset) Transport Secretary Mark Harper

Transport Secretary Mark Harper has dismissed fears that private developers will refuse to pay for 4.5 miles of HS2 tunnelling works into Euston Station.

The government was recently warned by Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, that the private sector would not agree to pay for the tunnel connecting Euston with Old Oak Common in west London.

Sir John told the Financial Times last month: “At the end of the day, the government will need to be ready to fund the core civil engineering for the final miles of the project.”

But asked whether he accepted that view, Harper told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I don’t, we’ve had really good conversations so far.

“Both myself, the chancellor, with partners – some of whom are already involved in the project, and some who are interested – we’ve had a really good reception for what we’re doing.

“That development around Euston – the fact that we’re now able to make it a development-led project, rather than just a purely train station project – is really exciting.

“[It’s] a big investment in housing, which is something the local council welcomes, [and] really ambitious plans for the business development, building on the success of schemes like what’s happened around King’s Cross and St Pancras.

“I think it’s a real opportunity to deliver business, housing and the transport infrastructure, with a much bigger involvement of the private sector and less cost to the taxpayer.”

Pressed on whether he was confident that private developers will pay for the tunnelling, the minister said: “We’re going to get as much money as we can from the private sector, we’ve made that clear.

“But I’m very confident, if you look at what we’ve done elsewhere in London, where we’ve got a significant amount of money in place in other schemes, then I’m confident we can do that here. We’ve seen a lot of interest from private developers already.”

London mayor Sadiq Khan has shared similar concerns to Sir John, arguing in an October letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that the plan to use private funds to pay for HS2’s Euston completion seems like “wishful thinking”, given “current challenges in the British economy”.

Harper was speaking on Wednesday during a visit to Mill Hill in Barnet, following confirmation by the government that London will receive £235 million in extra funding to resurface roads over the next eleven years.

The money has been redirected from funds which would have been spent on HS2, before Sunak announced that the route’s northern leg had been axed and that the Euston connection would be funded privately.

Khan said the amount of funding received was “a joke”, pointing out that only four per cent of the funding will be given to Transport for London (TfL), which maintain the capital’s busiest roads.

The remaining 96% will be given to borough councils to maintain local roads. The government said the allocations were based on the size of the road network that local authorities and TfL maintain respectively.

Harper was joined by Conservative mayoral candidate Susan Hall. Asked whether she was worried about money being spent on roads rather than HS2, she said: “No, to be honest with you, if you receive emails from residents as I do – because I’m a councillor in Hatch End – one of the things, other than emptying bins, is the state of potholes in our roads.

“Lots of councils don’t have spare money to put to it, so this is going to be really welcomed by residents.”

A number of public transport projects in the capital have been ‘paused’ for several years due to lack of funds, including an extension to the Bakerloo Line in south-east London, and Crossrail 2, which would run from south-west London through to Seven Sisters, Turnpike Lane, Alexandra Palace and New Southgate on one leg, and Tottenham Hale, Meridian Water, Ponders End, Brimsdown and Enfield Lock on the other.

Hall said: “There’s so much that can be done in London, but of course it depends on how much money Sadiq Khan leaves.

“If we look at the tunnels, we’ve got to deal with the problems there. If we look at our bridges, there are issues, I imagine, there.

“If we look at tram extensions, if we look at underground extensions – you could spend money left, right and centre. All of it depends on what is left by Sadiq Khan, and until I know that, I can’t say.

“But yes, we need to look to the horizon and look to see what we can achieve. There’s so much that needs to be done on transport in general – we need to work towards the bigger schemes.”

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