Number of staff working on scheme being quickly whittled down following decision to stop work on job
A group of select committee MPs is due to arrive at HS2’s stalled Euston station site later today at which they will see first-hand the scale of demobilising going on following the government’s decision earlier this month to halt work on the project.
Building understands the MPs, believed to be from the Treasury select committee, will be given a tour of the site, currently being mothballed, by the scheme’s chief executive Mark Thurston. HS2 minister Huw Merriman is also expected to attend.
One source said the visit, which has not been formally publicised, will give MPs an overview of the size of the project which has just been put on hold.
“I think they want to understand the situation themselves,” one source said. “It’s a massive site that’s going to stay a hole in the ground for some time.”
Firms working on Euston have already begun redeploying people with the 650-strong design team, which includes staff from Grimshaw, WSP and Arup, being whittled down over the next three months.
Grimshaw has already begun a consultation process on job losses in the wake of transport secretary Mark Harper’s decision with the number of redundancies at the firm due to be known next month.
The source said: “The vast majority of the 650 will be stood down. It was due to move to detailed design but that’s all stopped.
“Staff are being demobilised and firms are trying to place them on jobs elsewhere. The budget for Euston has been set and people are having to slim down numbers to meet that budget.”
More than 1,200 people were working on Euston with the Mace/Dragados construction joint venture having around 360 people on the job as well as over 300 operatives on site.
Yesterday, the National Audit Office said the cost of the mothballed scheme has hit £4.8bn – a rise of £2.2bn on its original budget.
It was supposed to cost £2.6bn but is now 85% above that figure with close to £550m spent on the project up to the end of last year alone. A further £1.5bn has been spent on land purchases and preparatory works at the site.
Another source said: “They could come up with a scheme that puts Euston within the [£2.6bn] budget but somebody needs to make a decision over its size and scale. There is a general acceptance [the £4.8bn] is the budget for what’s being planned but if they can’t afford it, then get on with something they can afford.”
The work on Euston has been officially delayed by two years but there are worries it could be more than double that figure with some expressing fears the scheme will never get built and that Old Oak Common in west London will be the capital’s HS2 terminus.
A spokesperson for the High Speed Rail Group said: “The suggestion that Old Oak Common might be a better bet is not helpful given this station would be stretched to handle half the number of trains HS2 has planned. This would result in a capacity-halved high-speed railway at best, undermining plans for better use of the West Coast Main Line.”
Over the weekend, levelling-up secretary Michael Gove admitted he was unsure whether HS2 would ever reach central London. “There is a debate on whether it will be Old Oak Common or Euston,” he told Channel 4.