Ken Livingstone suggests HS2 homes solution as he rolls out plans to derail Boris Johnson

Thursday, 5th May 2011


Published: 5th May, 2011

KEN Livingstone has told the New Journal he has devised a plan to retain a high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham without knocking down houses and council estates in Camden.

The former Mayor of London said the government could make savings by re-routing the HS2 project to Waterloo.

He said the concerns of families living in Euston, Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill could all be dealt with by “tweaking” the proposals.

Mr Livingstone alternative solution works by:

  • Using existing lines between the capital and Birmingham.
  • Building a new tunnel close to Euston where the high-speed train goes underground and passes on to Waterloo.
  • Creating an interchange at Tottenham Court Road where people using the new Crossrail service from London Heathrow, opening in 2013 can connect to HS2.

He revealed the proposal as he walked around Camden Town on Tuesday launching his campaign to unseat Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson. His visit to NW1 marked the starting gun on a year-long race to City Hall.

Mr Livingstone said the current HS2 plan, which has escaped the government’s spending cuts, would lead to upset in parts of Camden and anywhere in west London where an interchange might open.

Up to six council blocks, amounting to 365 homes, could face the wrecking ball under plans to accommodate the HS2 link in an expanded Euston station.

Camden’s Labour and Liberal Democrat groups are on record as opposing the project.

Mr Livingstone suggested that under his alternative plan the HS2 train could even ease the congestion on the Northern line by providing 25 trains linking north and south London.

He said: “The obvious thing to do is that HS2 should follow the existing line into Euston and then just before it reaches Euston it should go into a tunnel and come out at Waterloo.

“You’d save all the houses from demolition, you’d have 25 trains an hour going through central London, and all for the cost of building two and a half miles of tunnels between Euston and Waterloo and opening an interchange at Tottenham Court Road. 

“Crossrail opens in 2013 – people will get off at Heathrow and in 20 minutes they will be at Tottenham Court Road. There could be an interchange with HS2 taking people north.”

Mr Livingstone, who had two terms as London’s Mayor before his defeat to Mr Johnson in 2008, said: “The Mayor’s office should be doing more to get involved in these schemes, thinking how, on the back of big national schemes, can we tweak it so London gets 25 trains an hour?”

Mr Livingstone was accompanied on the walkabout by Andrew Dismore, the former Hendon Labour MP taking on Tory Brian Coleman in the Barnet and Camden constituency in the same London elections next year. Mr Livingstone blamed national issues for his Labour colleague’s defeat – and Mr Coleman’s repeated success locally.

He suggested that in 2004, Mr Coleman won on the back of the Iraq War protests that saw voters turn away from Labour. In 2008, meanwhile, Mr Livingstone said the removal of the 10p tax band in the weeks before the election gave the Conservatives a critical boost. 

Asked whether it was harder to fight the election against a possible perception that “he’d had his turn”, Mr Livingstone said: “It is easier now than it was in 2008 because everyone is able to compare what Boris has done, very little, with what we did. There are records you can compare now. 

“The only unique thing Boris Johnson has done as Mayor is to make drinking on the tube illegal. He hasn’t carried on the work that we started, he has not initiated anything and he’s just been getting by on the warm glow of what I left behind. 

“He isn’t doing any detailed work.”

Mr Dismore fended off a challenge from former council candidate Tom Copley to stand against Mr Coleman, a former Mayor of Barnet who has never been beaten in London Assembly elections.

Housing ‘missed chance’ 

THE King’s Cross redevelopment site was a “missed opportunity” to build affordable family homes, Ken Livingstone has claimed.

The former London Mayor lamented the lack of larger social housing planned for what was Europe’s biggest redevelopment, the land behind King’s Cross and St Pancras stations.

Mr Livingstone said former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair had failed to appreciate the scale of the capital’s housing crisis. 

Planning chiefs in Camden approved the blueprint for the 67-acre Railway Lands in 2006, despite pleas for developers to think again about how more cheap housing could fit on to the site. Less than 2,000 homes were planned.

Mr Livingstone said: “Of course it was a missed opportunity. 

“After the Iraq war, my biggest disagreement with Tony Blair’s government was about housing and the need to build more council and social housing. I found Gordon Brown realised the mistakes here but now you’ve got a government that doesn’t want to build.”

Livingstone must change minds

KEN versus Boris again? That’s come around quick, hasn’t it? 

It doesn’t seem so long since we were all in City Hall watching Livingstone pass the baton on to his rival. The contestants are the same. The prize is the same. Even the jokes are the same: Ken passed a shop on his Camden Town walkabout selling snakes, iguanas and, yup, groan, newts as well.

There was no way that Ken wasn’t going to pop into the shop on Camden High Street while snakephobic press aides waited outside. 

Livingstone’s team will be searching for a way of shifting the déjà vu element to all of this. The pictures could have been taken at any stage in the past decade: he must get more people to think trusty old face, rather than yesterday’s man. 

Privately, some Labour members curse the party’s inability – its fear even – at fielding somebody else in 2012’s mayoral battle. Oona King was sent packing. Livingstone, however, has a grip on London Labour politics, which will probably only loosen if he is beaten for a second time. Even the grumblers within the pack could not fail to be impressed by the encouragement passers-by gave him in Camden High Street. They were clearly not your average photoshoot stooges. One woman blushed crimson after being permitted to have a picture with Ken, the blood rushing to her head in excitement. Mind you, Boris often has that effect on people too. The outcome of their next duel is hard to predict.

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