London Overground commuters told to ‘make way for HS2'

Thursday, 1st March 2012

Published: 01 March 2012

THE government-backed company planning to build a high-speed rail link from Birmingham to Euston is locked in a ­battle with Transport for London over a link to Britain’s only other high- speed train route.

Plans seen by the New Journal show High Speed Rail 2 engineers want to use the existing North London line – known as the Overground – to bring trains from a tunnel in Primrose Hill across Camden.

This would then link up with the High Speed Rail 1 Channel Tunnel route to Europe.

It would mean travellers on fast trains from the Midlands could reach Paris and Brussels without having to leave their seats.

But this part of the project has been attacked by opponents as being vague, without anybody being told what kind of disruption it will mean for people who use stations such as Hampstead Heath, Gospel Oak, Kentish Town West and Camden Road.

A HS2 spokesman confirmed that it hoped to use the North London line for high-speed trains, which would mean major engineering work.

Nine bridges across roads in Camden would need to be strengthened, as would viaducts such as the Victorian arches that snake through Camden Market to Camden Road and beyond. No specific cost has been put on this work.

A HS2 spokesman said: “Linking HS2 with HS1 will make it much easier and quicker for passengers to travel between the North and continental Europe.

It is to be a key part of the UK’s high-speed rail network.

“We believe the best way to link the two routes is to use the North London line as there will be less impact from using existing infrastructure rather than building new infrastructure.”

He added: “Our trains would also be lighter and quieter than freight services already using the route and would not travel any faster than trains in this area currently go.

Initial work suggests that services on the North London line will not be significantly affected but we are continuing to assess engineering options with Network Rail and Transport for London.”

The scheme has not been welcomed by TfL.

It is feared that recent improvements which have seen passenger numbers rocket could be undone if new tracks have to be laid alongside existing ones.

TfL’s managing director for planning Michele Dix said: “The Mayor made it very clear in his response to the HS2 consultation that it should not have an adverse effect on existing North London line services, which in our view any proposal for high-speed services to share tracks with London Overground would very likely do.

“HS2 Limited has since identified a number of options that would not involve running high-speed services on the North London line.”

TfL would work closely with HS2 and Network Rail on a solution that did not disrupt North London line passengers, she added.

Town Hall regeneration chief Labour councillor Sarah Hayward said the Overground was a success story that should not be sacrificed for HS2.

She added: “The HS1 to HS2 link will at the very least cause massive disruption to the line.

The viaducts HS2 wants to use have had no investment since they were first built, except minor patch-up jobs.

“The service would mean six extra trains an hour and we do not understand how they can say this will have a minimal impact.”

The plans will be discussed in Parliament next year.


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