Lib Dems 2014: Kramer backs Camden HS2 link

A transport minister has expressed her support for connecting the High Speed Two and High Speed One railway stations in north London, six months after a planned link between the two lines through Camden was dropped.

High speed rail: minister says new link will benefit regions
High speed rail: minister says new link will benefit regions

Transport minister Baroness Susan Kramer was speaking at a fringe event on High Speed Rail at the Lib Dem party conference in Glasgow yesterday.

In March, the HS2 chairman David Higgins announced that the government would drop a planned link between HS2 and HS1, which would have gone through Camden in north London.

The link, which was expected to cost £700 million, aimed to create a connection between HS2 and Europe, via the existing Channel Tunnel line.

But it had also proved controversial with local residents. Kramer described the axed scheme, a single track with a 20mph maximum speed, as "a piece of string between two high speed lines" that "couldn't possibly serve its purpose".

She said it was "hard to make a business case" for whether the link would be well used by people travelling from the north of England straight through to the continent.

But she added: "We have to make sure there's a good link between Euston and St Pancras. There actually is the capacity to do that.

"What we can't have is people just taking their luggage out onto the Euston Road and walking between the two stations."

Kramer said she expect to see "whole regions" benefit from the presence of HS2, pointing to the regeneration around King's Cross railway station in north London as an example of how a station can "transform an area".

Calling for 'bottom-up' rather than 'top-down' regeneration, she said: "This was land we frankly couldn't give away when the station was conceived.

"I think the power of regeneration is something that people will become aware of.

"When you look at the various stations in the North and the Midlands, it's got to be those communities who decide how they will build that regeneration.

"It's something that can't be delivered out of London or we will get it badly wrong."

Elsewhere, Kramer said she had "no sense" of constraints on the project by HM Treasury, adding that the department had "complete commitment to it".

She went on to say that it was difficult to have high speed rail stations in city centres because of the cost of the development involved, adding: "It's fundamentally difficult to do and cost is so great that you couldn't frankly build it."

A completely new line was needed rather than using existing lines, Kramer said, to build it to "21st-century standards". She pointed out that large parts of the country's rail network came under threat in last year's floods.

The minister also revealed that she has commissioned work on the economic benefits of connecting HS2 to Scotland which would be reporting soon.

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