Dick Keegan: 'I don’t accept what they are proposing'
Published: 10 January, 2013
by TOM FOOT
THE British Rail director who spearheaded the King’s Cross railway development believes HS2 trains should not run through Camden – but go to Stratford instead.
Dick Keegan, a worldwide authority on major railway infrastructure projects, said current plans to tear down homes in a huge section of Euston and Regent’s Park to build a new terminus for the £33billion Birmingham rail link should be scrapped.
He told the New Journal that bringing HS2 trains to Euston would “not get the maximum benefit” from the massive public investment.
Mr Keegan said: “I don’t accept what they are proposing. For me, it’s not an issue of homes or areas of outstanding natural beauty. It’s not about where you build infrastructure – someone will always feel aggrieved by what’s proposed, wherever it is. But there is a hazard – in my opinion – that they will not get the maximum benefit out of the new high-speed railway.”
Mr Keegan, who worked for British Rail for more than 50 years, has a “vast range of experience in managing railway projects” in the UK, Australia and the Middle East.
Stratford, in east London, had better links to Europe and Heathrow, he said. Building a terminus in Euston went against the original proposal made by HS2 creator Lord Adonis, the self-styled “Baron of Camden” and former Transport Secretary under Tony Blair.
Mr Keegan said: “The real issue, where Euston and Stratford is concerned, is that Lord Adonis’s brief was that HS2 should serve Heathrow. In fact, it doesn’t – not the way he intended. He wanted the railway to go alongside or underneath Heathrow.
“Now it has become a route between Birmingham and Euston that may in some later stage have a spur to Heathrow. Personally, I do not think that spur will ever be built.
“My view is that the country would be better served if the line went from Birmingham through Stratford – and then carried on to Ashford, where people could transfer from the national rail to international rail.
“When you look at it nationally, that route offers far more opportunity for growth in the industry and the development of homes and jobs.”
He added: “One of the other advantages of getting off at Stratford is that you will be able to go on Crossrail to Heathrow.
“Links already exist to Stansted, London Airport, City Airport. In fact, the journey times to Stratford are probably marginally better to each of those airports than from Euston.”
He added that the “other issue about Euston” was that it did not have a proper connection to Europe. The government had so far “fudged” all its answers on that particular question, he added.
Mr Keegan, who lives in Islington, said he responded to the original HS2 consultation last year, but his “thoughts had developed since that time”.
A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “HS2 carefully reviewed all the possible station options, and a report on this was part of a major public consultation in 2011.”
Camden Council took the government to the High Court in a joint judicial review case in December, claiming insufficient justification was given for discounting alternative stations.
The court, which will make a judgment later this year, heard that at peak times in the evening in 2011 trains leaving Euston towards Birmingham were only 52.2 per cent occupied, 2 per cent less crowded than in 2008.
Timothy Stockton, part of the Pan Camden HS2 Alliance, said: “HS2 is the wrong project and there are many more sensible ways of investing over £32 billion of scarce public money in infrastructure. We must continue to make every effort to expose the absurdity of HS2 so the project is stopped dead in its tracks.”