LONDON’s Drummond Street, known for its immigrant-owned businesses, is facing a severe economic challenge due to the HS2 high-speed rail project.
Originally intended to improve connections between London, Birmingham, and Manchester, HS2’s delayed and over-budget construction near Euston station has disrupted the once-thriving area, reported the Times.
For many local businesses, the impact has been more damaging than the Covid-19 pandemic.
British Indian couple Lakshmishankar Pathak and Shanta Pathak came to the UK as refugees from Kenya and set up a small grocery shop on the street in 1958.
Later, it became Patak’s, a producer of curry pastes, sauces and spices which was bought by food firm ABF for £200 million in 2007.
Harish Bhagvati is another immigrant entrepreneur who runs the Indian Spice Shop, an off-licence, convenience store, greengrocer and spice retailer.
Bhagvati blames his woes on the over-budget, delayed and allegedly misconceived rail project.
In his opinion, HS2 is worse than Covid as his business was down 40 per cent.
Today, independent businesses on Drummond Street face challenges just to survive.
Tehreem Riaz, co-owner of Raavi Kebab, describes the ongoing construction as a “nightmare” akin to home renovations but on a larger scale.
Access to the street has been obstructed, waste removal has become challenging, and business costs have surged. Many traders, including Faisal Ahmed of Drummond Villa, a Tandoori curry house, are now solely reliant on evening bookings, as lunchtime footfall has dwindled.
Oli Uddin, chairman of the Drummond Street Trader Forum, highlights the “triple-whammy” of challenges, including the HS2 disruption, the pandemic, and the rise of remote work. These factors have taken a heavy toll on the businesses in the area.
According to reports, construction at Euston was paused for two years due to inflation pressures and station design issues. This uncertainty exacerbates the frustration for local traders who have relied on construction workers for business.
Camden council and HS2 have taken steps to help Drummond Street businesses during this period, providing financial support and plans for a long-term regeneration of the area. The HS2 business and local economy fund has contributed £650,000 to assist affected businesses.
Despite the challenges, there is hope that the regeneration efforts will eventually make Drummond Street a renowned destination in central London. Traders like Tehreem Riaz see the potential for long-term success and envision the street becoming a famous spot, driven by its unique character.
However, many traders remain uncertain about the project’s benefits for their businesses. Rumors of relocating the London terminus to Old Oak Common persist, although the government denies such plans and remains committed to Euston.
HS2 insists that Euston will bring substantial improvements for both passengers and the local community. The project aims to create a new destination with homes, businesses, shops, and community facilities.
“This project will bring transformational benefits to the Euston area and HS2 is working closely with the local community to mitigate the impact of construction,” a government spokesman was quoted as saying.