How HS2 should learn from HS1’s urban errors?

St Pancras Way will one day have active frontages, costing millions more than the initial HS1 investment. The blank frontages and negative street character that were originally built will eventually be transformed to create a place that London deserves. In the meantime, people walk through the loading bay, across the security barrier, past the blank walls.

This is the lesson of cities – they fix their problems. But only after money has been spent needlessly. It is a mistake that  HS2 must avoid:

St Pancras north

This loading bay will one day be a bustling retail street:

St Pancras loading dock

And this route will one day be lined with places to eat and drink:

St Pancras_Police Station route

Retrofitting is expensive, especially when the principal purpose doesn’t change. Under-realised investment equals wastage.

To avoid HS1-like mistakes HS2 should be designed by urban architects and urban engineers ie Urbanists.

And design professionals need clients who are themselves urbanists. Are HS2’s clients Urbanists or Transportationists?

If, as looks likely, the economic case for HS2 needs to be remade then it should be based on urban impact and not just on passenger travel experience. The economic case will be strengthened by the creation of real urban places, supporting local employment and generating local economic spend: spaces that fit seamlessly into the concourses, streets and squares that the urban engineering of HS2 will provide. This will produce real, measurable and significant, urban value.

As I have argued previously, the more HS2 integrates with the city, the more economically feasible it will be.

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3 thoughts on “How HS2 should learn from HS1’s urban errors?”

  1. Somehow I doubt it, given that it’s already considerably over-budget. This kind of good planning will be exactly the kind of “luxury” that will be culled by miserable philistines and bean counters.

  2. Agreed Tim, so many lost opportunities with HS1, and not only at the London terminus!

    Dancarins, the project isn’t over budget – the budget (in particular the contingency) has increased…

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