HS2 plans for Euston Station collapse in a costing shambles reminiscent of the Kings Cross overspend

Euston_Station_LondonI feel for the poor people affected by the omnishambles that is the HS2 plans for Euston reported in the Camden New Journal.  Hundreds of people have had the threat of demolition hanging over their head for ages, only to find that now HS2 have completely revised their plans, with no apparent community benefit.  At the heart of the problem is grotesquely bad costing of what the original station plans would have cost.   Ring any bells?

In a dogged, round-headed and boring way we tracked the appalling cost inflation of the Kings Cross refurbishment.  Having seen St Pancras soar to £850 million we were horrified, but not surprised to see the Kings Cross costs edge up to top out at £550-odd million – an astonishing  amount of money for a public building and miles above the figure of ‘around £400million’ first revealed to us at a local public meeting.  As I put in FOI request after request and poked away at DfT, Network Rail and the rail regulator the feedback I got was that I was like some sort of naughty child farting at a formal dinner – it was indecent to ask and I should just be quiet and enjoy the feast.

The briefing DfT supplied for the Minister at the Kings Cross opening event (obtained by FOI) was hilarious – when asked if the project was over budget  she was briefed to say that it wasn’t possible to formulate a budget until they knew what they wanted the building to do.  which wasn’t worked out until the final months it seemed.  So you couldn’t say it was over budget.

‘The true cost of a project is only known when a single option has been decided on.’

A laughable line to take from a government Minister in the middle of an austerity drive.

The problem in rail engineering seems to be that they don’t start with a budget – say ‘I have £100m, what sort of train station can you build for me for that?’ but instead seek a ‘solution’ and worry about the cost later, safe in the knowledge that the industry is impenetrable, unaccountable, the DfT civil servants are safely captured and as it a monopoly the money can be screwed out somewhere.  It’s unlikely that Kings Cross would  have been funded were it not for the pressure of the Olympics, for instance.

Whilst HS2 has at least manned up to the costs and tried to tackle them, they should always have started with a strict budget and built to that, instead of putting the frighteners on local people facing demolition and eviction.

About William Perrin

Active in Kings Cross London and South Oxfordshire, founder of Talk About Local, helping people find a voice online and a trustee of The Indigo Trust , Good Things Foundation and ThreeSixtyGiving as well as Connect8.
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8 Responses to HS2 plans for Euston Station collapse in a costing shambles reminiscent of the Kings Cross overspend

  1. Ben Myring says:

    Serious consideration should be given to using the Regents Canal to take some or all of those ‘300 lorries a day’ off our roads. They could use the bed of the Cumberland Arm for loading, and even re-open part or all of the arm as a nice contribution to Camden.

  2. Chris says:

    I don’t think you’re realistic about this kind of project -new construction can be built roughly to a price but if your refurbishing/rebuilding/overhauling something very old that’s seen piecemeal upgrades on top of piecemeal upgrades, you never know what you’re going to find until you actually attempt it – the DfT has to decide on outputs for the railway because it exists to move passengers, because there’s no point in a railway with no money for rail or a station refurbishment that leaves the station in a dangerous state or one that will cost more to rectify in the future.

  3. strawbrick says:

    In every major construction budget there should always be “Provisional Sums” and “Contingencies” and “Risks” to cover both the costs and the programme. In a refurb there are also, as one D Rumsfeld put it, there are “things we know we know, things we know we don’t know and things we don’t know we don’t know” in which case the Provisional Sums, the Contingencies and the Risks are always increased. Hopefully they will not need to be spent, and usually some are underspent whilst others are overspent. Thus for HS2 to have got it’s BUDGET wrong by 40% is absolutely incredible! What confidence can we know have in the rest of the budget and the programme? And as for saying that the de-scoping has been driven by HS2’s wish to recognise the concerns over the time taken to rebuild Euston, well words fail me!

  4. Chris says:

    If they were just rebuilding a structure such an underestimate might be surprising, but the previous plan involved an entirely new station with nothing left untouched – getting it so wrong isn’t so surprising given how many different elements were involved. HS2 as a whole however is much more simple, with tunnelling and earthworks relatively risk-free. In fact the latest changes make phase 1 no riskier than HS1 to deliver, a project that was both on-time and on-budget.


  5. strawbrick says:

    Sorry Chris but it just ain’t so – ALL construction entails dealing with the unknown (as my previous post)! The competent project manager / cost manger / designer will make allowances accordingly, unless of course they have been instructed to budget for “no-more-than” and / or to complete by a “fixed date” irrespective of reality (and I have been in teams working both such conditions).
    Having said that, things do go wrong – but not this early, not with such an over-run (four years!) and not such an overspend (£500,000,000!) and we are years away from a spade has entering the ground!
    The fact is that some-one has either blundered or someone has misled (the old cock-up or conspiracy) big time! Whichever it is hoe can we have any confidence in the rest of the project figures and times?
    And by the way, the plans for Euston are not yet frozen – the scheme shown in this months Rail Magazine is not the one presented to Camden in April!

    • i agree – this is borked. have put in an FOI request for correspondence between HS2 and DfT prior to the announcement. will see if it reveals anything. should get a response in about 3 weeks

    • Chris says:

      So every construction project has exactly the same risk? As a scheme is developed so the costs and issues are better understood and their inter-relation with other aspects of the project – the complication of dealing with an operational railway should not be underestimated, and it’s this which has likely caused the problem. I don’t see the issue, would people prefer they carried on regardless?

  6. Pingback: CrossRail2 – ‘Euston St Pancras’ another new train station for the neighbourhood? | Kings Cross Environment

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