Monday, 10 October 2011

Old Oak Common: HS2 interchange in doubt

The High Speed interchange at Old Oak Common is in serious doubt after the Transport Secretary described the area as a "wet suburban station somewhere in north west London" where passengers would have to "lug your heavy bags down a couple of escalators along 600m of corridor and then change trains at a wet suburban station somewhere in north west London. That is not an option."

Not an option.

Quite a difference from the spin our Council have been putting on things with a slick new video which you can see above, which emphasises the prospect of 10,000 new jobs and 40,000 new houses - and it's a line which our local media have swallowed whole. But a blog reader has written in to point out that the commentary on the Council's video chooses their words carefully:

"from the video one gets the impression that Crossrail will have an interchange here. Indeed according to the proposals issued in 2010 by the Department for Transport Old Oak Common would provide direct interchange between HS2 and Crossrail and Great Western Main Line services, including those operated by Heathrow Express and First Great Western".

But the blog reader notes that the voice over on the Council's video "carefully expresses an interchange station to LINK with Crossrail which is not the same at all"

No, it's not. And it's also interesting that the Crossrail route map does not have any station called "Old Oak" on it either. So not even an interchange with that, it seems.

As Jackie Sadek, chief executive of UK Regeneration puts it in an article entitled "Transport secretary chops down Old Oak High Speed 2 interchange":
"This announcement is something of a setback for the redoubtable team of Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh and Cllr Mark Loveday at the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, who have been pushing Old Oak and its "huge regeneration potential", ably assisted by the crew at the Park Royal Partnership and the West London Partnership, at MIPIM and elsewhere".  
"What a shame that Philip Hammond missed the point of not just linking HS2 to major transport connections but seriously unlocking a major developable site in public sector ownership, tapping into the economy of Park Royal and putting homes along underused canal sides".
But our Council remain pumped up about their vision, and its difficult to argue with anything that would regenerate what the video rightly calls an area of high deprivation. Here's Cllr Greenhalgh, Leader of H&F Council:
“HS2 is the fastest way to deliver much need new homes, jobs and opportunities in one of London's poorest areas and the case for an interchange station at Old Oak is overwhelming.” 
“The Old Oak super hub is vital to making the overall HS2 plans work properly as it will relieve pressure on central London terminals, like Euston, that will not be able to cope with the huge number of additional passengers on their own.  
The YouTube clip clearly shows how HS2 could be the catalyst to create Park Royal City. This is a once in lifetime opportunity to transform a sometimes forgotten part of London from a Bermuda Triangle of inactivity into a thriving new city.”
In fact as I reported here they have already commissioned leading architect Sir Terry Farell to come up with a vision for the area, some of which is expressed in the video.

But what, then, is the implication of Old Oak Common actually NOT being the direct interchange with HS2?

Monday 1430 UPDATE - The Council press office have been in touch to point out that the quote from the Transport Secretary is 15 months old, and that, as a spokesperson has just told me,
"things have moved on significantly since then. In fact, using Old Oak Common as a high speed rail interchange is a key component of the Government's "recommended route" for HS2. See a link to their website here:"

"The DfT's consultation has just finished and we hope the Transport Secretary will confirm Old Oak as an HS2 station later this year. If the whole HS2 project proceeds as planned an extra Crossrail station at Old Oak will definitely be part of those plans as it will provide the vital interchange needed to take further pressure of central London stations".
"You will see that the link to the DfT currently reports: 'The Government's view is that the route recommended by HS2 Ltd, following its additional work on mitigating environmental impacts, appropriately balances the benefits and impacts of such a line, and provides a better solution than any of the alternatives considered. For this reason, the Government believes that this route for an initial London to the West Midlands high speed line should be taken forward, as the first phase in the development of a national high speed rail network.'"
I'm grateful for the update but it still doesn't change the careful wording of the video - and I note the Council press office still use the word "hope" - not quite the (intended) implication of the video which implied it was all done and dusted.

Equally the route map on that website does not clearly show Old Oak as being an interchange station, unless I have not read it properly.

Interestingly MPs will be debating the HS2 line route this coming thursday in the House of Commons - we should all be interested in the outcome of that and I hope Andy Slaughter as the local MP puts party politics to one side and supports the scheme. I also hope the Secretary of State does what H&F Council want him to do as well - but my worry is that trying to bounce him into doing so by putting out PR materials that give the impression that it is inevitable raises expectations locally without any guarantee that they will be met.

Fingers crossed, then.


  1. Old Oak isn't on the map as LBH&F and LBK&C are lobbying for it and it isn't currently funded.

    See the excellent London Reconnections
    LR pointed out all the overground developments to me way before other media in it's first guise as London Connections. Might be useful for keeping tabs on any transport related Shepherds Bush news in future.

    Getting the west coast mainline operators to stop at Wembley Central is impossible even with both Manchester teams at Wembley. Hopefully HS2 might make them see sense...


  2. Hope springs eternal! but "not an option" seems to be quite categoric at first sight - thanks for the info though

  3. Surely if the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea have their way, there will be an argument about how many additional stations can be added to the Crossrail route without slowing down the service and H&F will lose out.

  4. is currently on site creating the Crossrail Depot on Old Oak Common. This takes up all the site and is consented by Act of Parliament. Crossrail's only comment for the HS2 consultation is that if the depot is delayed Crossrail cannot deliver the Crossrail on time. TfL has told us (during our meeting with them)that they expected H&F would be able to construct a concrete deck over the Crossrail Depot (and sidings for 26 trains) to support their city (YES SERIOUSLY). We advocated to them Old Oak Common should be the main HS2 terminus - but in the form of an airport style interchage to include platforms for all the other lines - though feeding several high speed trains to other several other stations (including Euston) at conventional speed overground (at the cost of a couple of minutes journey time). TfL described the site as rail-locked so unsuitable. We say UNLOCK IT TFL (because that is what they are there for) - very cheap to do by putting Orbirai (Silverlink) etc on piloti for full permeability. Arups told us at the Euston HS2 roadshow that they can't increase the currently proposed 6 HS2 platforms to the 10 required for such a terminus because Crossrail blocked this with their depot (and HS2 and Crossrail have been in dispute over this). Feeding Euston overground at conventional speeds would save several billion pounds which could be pumped into Old Oak Common. OOC would not be a wet suburban station - in Camden for example it is for example much closer to Hampstead than Euston and nearly as close as Euston to Parliament. Lugging suitcases sounds like a reference to Clapham Junction - another piece of cancerous rail heritage for TfL to turn into a customer friendly interchange (which should also accomodate HS2 platforms (as should Waterloo - in - guess what - the redundant empty HS1 terminus - currently being used for pantomines - which has existing links to the empty Eurostar depot (at - guess where - Old Oak Common).
    Old Oak Common is a railway engineers black hole. We have been told "you can't develop it because it is all railway land" - a throwback to old style British Rail thinking - which is still very prevalent.
    See our proposal

  5. "lugging suitcases down escalators in wet suburban station somewhere in west London" ... This was Philip Hammond - not the current Secretary of State. Well poor old Philip - not even up to speed on transporting suitcases - and it seems geography isn't his strength - but then again he's not from around here. I think the White City area is more accurately described as inner London than a suburb (unless he is trying to invoke the spirit of the Victorian railway pioneers - ie when London was much smaller (and Hampstead was an outlying village and Old Oak Common actually had Oak Trees). We are hoping that the new Secretary of State will be advocating sustainable improvements to London's transport network (as we are) not the current HS2 lobby-driven pantomine - this shouldn't involve lugging suitcases anywhere (not even Euston - the rear access of which is not in phase one - so a 500metre suitcase-lug to the front carriages is inevitable due to site constraints.