Today’s announcement from Justine Greening that HS2 – a new high-speed rail network – has been approved by the government contained in it a number of sweeteners for London. There will be an extra three miles of tunnelling under the capital to reduce disruption to Londoners and, significantly, Euston station will also be completely redeveloped. According to the Evening Standard, 2,000 jobs will be created in and around the station, as well as a massive 20,000 at the site of the new Old Oak Common interchange near Wormwood Scrubs. Supporters have said it will do for west London regeneration what the Olympics is doing in the east.
This is a significant result for Boris, after he opposed the initial plans last summer. In a letter of explanation back then, he called for far more of the London part of the track to be tunnelled rather than on land, in order to mitigate the environmental impact, and for major redevelopment work of Euston, if it was to cope with the extra traffic. Although he was criticised by both the right, for causing the government problems, and the left, for embarking on what they insisted was just a ‘faux-fight’ with Cameron, he’s ended up getting almost precisely what he asked for.
This latest example of Boris fighting for London and winning (see also securing a reprieve for Crossrail and tube upgrades – which an Evening Standard editorial described as a “genuine achievement”) actually cuts right to the core of the electoral decision that Londoners must make in May. Ken Livingstone says that he should be voted mayor so that he can stand up to the (evil, nasty etc etc) government on Londoners’ behalf, but could he really do a better job there than Boris is? At least three years of the next four year mayoral term will come under a Tory-led government. Do Londoners really think that Cameron, Osborne, Greening et al are more likely to give in to Ken’s leftie attacks than Boris’ negotiations? What London needs over the next four years is a mayor who can deal successfully with the government on its behalf – Boris can, Ken couldn’t.