A potential benchmark for engineering quality and architectural design

Source: RTM Jun/Jul 17

Victoria Hills, chief executive officer at the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC), gives RTM an update on the work to create a super hub station at Old Oak and Park Royal.

A year has passed since I last wrote in RTM about Old Oak and Park Royal, a largely industrial, and not widely known, part of Zone 2-3 in west London. At that time, I noted that it was about to hit the big time. So, what’s changed over the last year? HS2 is now truly on its way because the HS2 Bill received royal assent in February. This was an important and significant milestone because there’s no going back on this commitment made by government. This future interchange station between London Heathrow Airport, London and the UK will be far more than just a place to change lines, it will be the gateway to the Midlands Engine and Northern Powerhouse. The new HS2-Elizabeth Line super hub station at Old Oak will be the only place in the UK where HS2 and the Elizabeth Line connect, so there is much potential for placemaking. 

Since last year we have learnt that this new station, with capacity for 250,000 passengers a day when it opens in 2026, is, according to HS2, the largest sub-surface station to have ever been built in the UK. It will also be the largest new-build station for over a century, and with both comes much excitement about the future design of the station. This is a key focus of our work and one that I’ll come onto. The new station has become somewhat of a magnet for considering wider rail connectivity such as linkages to the Chiltern Line and the Dudding Hill Line. A whole list of previously retired and shelved rail schemes are now worthy of greater consideration in this ‘game changer’ station that requires a ‘no stone unturned’ approach on the art of the possible when it comes to future rail connectivity. 

The OPDC is now two years old and is the fully functioning local planning authority for the 650 hectares it covers, across the three London boroughs of Hammersmith & Fulham, Brent and Ealing. There has been a healthy surge in development interest, and with 10,500 homes in pre-application discussions with OPDC, we’re on track for consenting the 2,000 homes by the end of the year. With such interest in the area we’re putting in place a Local Plan, with the second stage consultation due to take place this summer. There’s still a long way to go to hitting the London Plan target of 25,500 new homes and 65,000 new jobs. And it’s one thing approving schemes, it’s quite another to actually convince developers to build. We’re undertaking detailed analysis of the infrastructure that will be required to get development going, and preparing a business case to set out the funding and financing required to deliver this level of homes. We have now appointed a world-class team of master planners, headed up by Aecom, to prepare our own master plan. 

With just nine years until the station opens, HS2 is rightly pushing ahead with station design briefs and engineering contracts. We want to ensure that the ‘super hub’ station built at the heart of Old Oak and Park Royal is indeed a beating heart and a catalyst for regeneration, that not only meets the needs of those who interchange at the station but of those who live and work in west London. Such major infrastructure projects require a ‘leap of faith’ by local residents and businesses that living through years of major construction works will be worth it. 

As I said in my last article, transport infrastructure is key to unlocking development potential and it doesn’t get much bigger than a HS2 station. The station has the potential to set a UK benchmark for engineering quality and architectural design. Local residents and businesses, and investors and developers alike, will all get on board if the basic station design principles are of a sound regeneration basis. However, the station functional requirements and design ambitions are also crucial, and we’ll work tirelessly to ensure that Old Oak and Park Royal secures the very best that this world-class location is worthy of.




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