Old Oak Common may become main London terminal
Wells House Road is right next to the HS2 site at Old Oak Common
February 1, 2023
Families living on quiet residential streets next to a planned HS2 station are split as some say the construction work has been a nightmare, while others say they can’t wait to have a new train station. Old Oak Common hit the headlines last week after The Sun reported that HS2 may never reach central London, making the station just north of Wormwood Scrubs the final stop.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has since said the government is “absolutely committed” to HS2 reaching Euston. Old Oak Common is set to be one of the busiest stations in the UK, but if it was the final HS2 stop, commuters would be forced to use the Elizabeth line or London Underground to reach central London.
Wells House Road sits just off Old Oak Common Lane and is right next to the construction site. Once the station is complete, it will have fourteen platforms that will serve more than 250,000 passengers every day.
The building site on Old Common Lane is a world away from the transport hub promised, and for some residents, it is difficult to imagine the positives of the scheme. Amanda Souter has lived in her home for 26 years and has spent 10 of them fighting HS2 from being built opposite her kitchen window.
She said, “I have been really worried. I have been fighting this since day one and when I saw that on the news last week, it was like being kicked in the stomach. I am extremely concerned because I know there are questions and ambiguity about the Euston station.
“It’s hard for us here to look at the long-term benefits when we have to suffer absolute hell. We have had to fight for everything and we have not had one penny in compensation.”
Amanda Souter has been fighting HS2 for ten years.
Ms Souter says residents have not only had to deal with loud construction noise for years but also vibrations that shake their houses. They finally secured double glazing and noise insulation – but Ms Souter claims that her home has moved so much there are gaps around the new windows and doors.
She said, “We have got so many cracks in the houses here, they are trying to tell us that is the tree roots but it isn’t, it can’t be. Old Common Lane is a lane for a reason. It can’t handle this traffic and heavy HGVs.”
Cracks appearing in homes on Wells House Road due to contruction vehicles say residents
Many residents who have lived on the street for decades have been forced to move because the thought of living next to HS2 was too much. They’ve left and landlords have taken over, turning family homes into rented houses popular with young professionals and students, looking forward to the promise of better railway connections literally next door.
Ms Souter said, “HS2 think it’s enough to tell us our house prices go up like they’re a commodity. But people who live here are loyal, some of them were born in these houses and they’ll die before HS2 is ever completed.”
Fewer families are staying in Wells House Road
Cristina Puerta, a freelance journalist who has lived on the road for four years, is torn about HS2’s impact on the local area. For her, the biggest concern is the loss of green space, particularly at Wormwood Scrubs.
The nature reserve sits just behind Old Oak Common and is a spot of tranquillity and peace for residents. But HS2 bought some of the land for its works at Old Oak Common, including the rerouting of Stamford Brook Sewer.
Ms Puerta said, “Just behind the station you have the green area and it is lovely, during the pandemic it was a life saver but they destroyed it. You couldn’t hear any of the city noise but that is going to change now once the train is here.”
HS2 has said it intends to return all the land used back to Wormwood Scrubs once construction is complete. A new parkland will also be created above the new HS2 station.
Mirela Mandzhukova, who has lived on the street since 2008, can no longer enjoy her back garden that looks out onto the construction site. She said, “The views used to be lovely with green fields but that is all gone now. It is quiet at the weekend, but in the day I can only enjoy my coffee outside with breakfast, it gets too noisy.”
Mirela Mandzhukova can no longer enjoy her garden but looks forward to what HS2 might bring
Despite the loss of the view, she welcomes HS2. She said, “The world has to go ahead, it does not go back to the past, this is the future. We will be more connected because we are quite isolated at the moment.
“It will become busier, attracting more people which is my main worry because crime is getting worse but it is everywhere. The street has changed a lot since I moved here, the families are gone, but I hope the change is for good eventually.”
Nick Lambrianou, who has lived on the street for 12 years, feels like he is the only one on Wells House Road excited for HS2. He said, “I have got used to it really. I think an electric railway is necessary and I can see the longer-term benefits of it, despite the noise and disruption.
“The Elizabeth line had the same problems, it was way over budget but that had so much praise, so I think people will eventually get on board. It will connect us and I’ve got family in Birmingham so it will be really good to get home from here.”
From his upstairs window, he has been able to watch the site change with his young son who’s enjoyed watching the construction. He said, “The kids will definitely get the benefit of it, they won’t have had to wait years like we have.”
Mr Lambrianou agrees with his neighbours that the area has changed since he first moved in, which is partly due to the HS2 works. He said, “We moved here 12 years ago because it was quite isolated, but obviously that has changed now.
“Many families have moved on and there are more renters but there’s nothing wrong with the students and professionals moving in – this is their community too. It was an odd area, a mixture of residential and industrial, new developments are a good thing and if you do not like that why are you living in London?”
An HS2 Ltd spokesperson said, “All land temporarily taken on Wormwood Scrubs will be returned and restored. HS2 is providing £3.9m for a site restoration scheme as part of the LBHF Wormwood Scrubs Masterplan, which will be sensitive to the ecology of the area and enhance biodiversity on the Scrubs. In addition a new parkland will be created on the station site above the HS2 platforms. The new HS2 station at Old Oak Common will be a super hub, served by HS2, GWR, Elizabeth line and Heathrow Express services.
“Our priority is to minimise impacts on local communities wherever possible. We take steps to reduce noise and dust around our construction sites, and introduce traffic management to ensure the safety of the public and improve traffic flow. We communicate with the local community in a number of ways, including holding regular meetings where people can talk to our team about their concerns. Our helpdesk is available 24/7, 365 days per year.”
Megan Stanley - Local Democracy Reporter
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