Overcoming Barriers: redeveloping Euston

Euston is expansive, connecting places but dividing communities

Opening in 1837, Euston was the first station to connect London with another city. At the same time, the station and the railway tracks leading to it have created a physical north-south and east-west barriers through the neighbourhood for decades. Over the next 15 years the station will be redeveloped, bringing high-speed rail services to the Midlands and the North. LB Camden wish to see these plans integrate with Network Rail, Crossrail 2 and Underground stations and services.

This would create opportunities for thousands of homes, around 15,000 jobs, open space, cultural facilities and routes through and around the station. The challenge in Euston is to achieve both the requirements of a national infrastructure project and to bring benefits for the existing local community, who are about to endure 20 years of construction. On our 3 October field trip, we heard from LB Camden, Network Rail (NR), High Speed2 (HS2) and Master Development Partner, Lendlease.

The station in context

When High Speed2 was first proposed, it was met locally by cross-party opposition: Camden Council were concerned about “substantial negative impacts and lack of clear economic benefits demonstrated in the plans”. The demolition of 216 Camden homes, 20 business premises, loss of listed buildings and open spaces were cited in the council’s response.

David Joyce, Director of Regeneration and Planning at LB Camden, highlighted the importance of planning for all outcomes in periods of uncertainty. While the council resisted HS2, policy teams began preparations for if scheme went ahead. The 2015 Euston Area Plan – produced jointly by LB Camden, GLA and TfL with technical input from Network Rail and HS2 – sets the policy framework for development. Later, a Growth Strategy for Euston was developed: the Strategy identified how to unlock funding for the comprehensive redevelopment of Euston station, should HS2 be approved.

Euston in the context of nearby Opportunity Areas

The redevelopment of Euston is a huge and incredibly complex project, with proportionate threats and opportunities implied, plans work to set out the borough’s objectives and ensure benefits for the whole area are derived. Therese Gallagher, LB Camden’s Euston Manager, explained that the plans are a response to HS2 but also seek to address existing problems: the overriding aspiration is to make the station a “better neighbour”. Key to this is re-providing any homes, jobs, amenities, spaces and facilities lost; making the best use of space; making east-west and north-south movement easier; boosting local economies; enhancing existing transport networks and improving the built environment.

Richard Davies, Principal Commercial Development Engineer at HS2, outlined the governance arrangements in place to deliver HS2. HS2 Ltd delivers the rail programme, while a commercial branch of HS2 oversees over-station development. The latter holds the Landowners Representative Agreement from the Secretary of State for Transport and works to deliver integrated priorities:

  1. Development will benefit the local, regional and national economy
  2. Euston will be a world-class transport hub, integrating with existing streets and providing a gateway to London
  3. Comprehensive redevelopment will make Euston a wonderful place to live and work with a mix of uses
  4. Euston will make a meaningful financial contribution to the delivery of transport infrastructure.

Lendlease were appointed Master Development Partner for the Over Station Development in 2018. Jans Fraser, Development Manager at Lendlease, explained that development is at an early stage, but shared some highlights. The vision is to create an identity for Euston, harnessing the area’s wealth of educational, creative and cultural capital, it’s commercial offer and connectivity to create a “Knowledge Capital”. The planning process for what this will look like is just beginning.

Around Euston

Bounded by roads to the south and the bus terminus and station to the north, Euston Square Gardens could be better used.

A top priority for communities and the council is ensuring green space and trees lost to development are re-provided, delivering a network of open spaces. James’ Gardens is currently being used for HS2 construction and the station’s footprint will eventually extend into the park. In Somers Town – a Camden district bounded by Pancras Road, Euston Road, Eversholt Street, Crowndale Road, and the railway approaches to St Pancras station – air is polluted and life expectancy 10 years lower than the rest of the borough.

LB Camden have received a financial contribution from HS2 to create an open space and green infrastructure along Phoenix Road, which links HS1 at St Pancras with HS2 at Euston. Key to delivering this link successfully will be the creation of an entrance to the existing NR station on Eversholt Street. Creating permeability through the station will help to reconnect communities on either side. Key routes identified in the EAP include: connecting Drummond Street to Doric Way, Robert Street to Phoenix Road and north south across the site, linking Bloomsbury to Mornington Crescent and Camden Town.

HS2 have provided assurances to TfL in relation to the redesign of the bus station, LB Camden want to enhance public space at Euston Square Gardens alongside any changes. The current layout of the gardens provides access to the buses through the middle, leaving much room for improvement. HS2’s proposals for reinstatement of the Gardens following their works include consolidating the space by removing the central bus access and creating a linear bus station.

Inside Euston

Euston’s distinctive commercial towers

The station was completely rebuilt in conjunction with the electrification of the West Coast Mainline in the 1960s, with a bus station and commercial blocks added in the late 1970s. Since then, the structure has changed very little, but usage has grown to 40 million passengers a year, double its design capacity.

In addition to building the HS2 terminus, Euston’s redevelopment is an opportunity for Network Rail to make improvements to the existing station. NR is investigating opportunities to optimise platform layout, boost capacity and create more room for commercial uses.

Access is also important. Currently, businesses in the station are served by a storage area to the north east, with goods transported along platforms. NR are investigating ways to move the servicing process back of house and considering options for servicing entrances and exits across the site. Euston has the highest proportion of reduced mobility passengers in London (growing 6-7% per annum) and accessibility improvements to the public concourse are needed to meet their needs.

Work is just beginning on the HS2 terminal.

Any potential upgrade to the NR station is unlikely to commence until HS2 Phase 1 is operational, with Phase 1 of the redevelopment seeing NR platforms 16-18 removed to facilitate HS2 delivery. HS2 Phase 1 is scheduled to complete in 2026, with NR station upgrades dependant on design option chosen. HS2 Phase 2, including over-station development, is scheduled to finish by 2040.

The Euston redevelopment is a significant opportunity to rethink long-standing barriers, created by the station’s bulk and mass. While the opportunities are clear, aligning the priorities and timescales of these diverse stakeholders is no easy task. Other successful, multi-stakeholder station redevelopment projects such as London Bridge could offer lessons. LB Camden’s approach has been to get out ahead of change, forward plan and build partnerships with a view to delivering benefits in the long term.