Interview with Ben Goodwin at HS2 Ltd
What exactly is HS2?
Britain’s new low-carbon, high-speed railway, High Speed 2 (HS2), is now being built and when complete it will benefit the entire country by providing more capacity on the existing railway – for additional local, regional and freight trains – cutting carbon emissions and offering better connectivity.
HS2 will form the spine of Britain’s rail system, connecting 30 million people and eight of its largest cities.
The UK’s first section of high-speed rail, High Speed 1 (HS1), links London with the Channel Tunnel and opened in 2007.
HS2 London Euston station visualisation
Where will the route run?
When completed, 345 miles of brand-new high-speed track will run between Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and London. HS2 trains will also run on the existing network, serving towns and cities in the North West and North East of England, and Scotland.
HS2 is planned to be delivered in three phases: · Phase One will run from London Euston to Birmingham Curzon Street, with intermediate stations in West London at Old Oak Common and at Interchange, near Solihull in the West Midlands. · Phase 2a will run from the West Midlands to Crewe and will be delivered alongside Phase One between 2028 and 2031. · Phase 2b will comprise an Eastern leg from the West Midlands to Leeds with a new station built at East Midlands Hub, and a Western leg from Crewe to Manchester, with an intermediate station at Manchester Airport.
HS2 Birmingham Curzon Street station visualisation
How will the route be constructed?
Construction is beginning with the biggest engineering challenges – such as the stations and tunnels – then the main viaducts and bridges, and finally meets in the middle with the route surface works.
Detailed design work will continue in parallel for things like the redevelopment of Euston station in London and the surface route, while procurement will continue for the later stages of the build, such as rolling stock, track and overhead systems.
In order to reduce long term costs and improve performance, the track itself will be set onto concrete slabs instead of the ballast commonly used on the UK rail network. This approach – known as slab track – is commonly used on metro systems and some international high speed rail lines, and will allow for a higher frequency of service with less maintenance.
Meanwhile, HS2 will use the state-of-the-art V360 Overhead Catenary System (OCS) design range under licence from SNCF Reseau – the first system in Europe to be certified for speeds of up to 360km/h (225mph).
HS2 Ltd – the company building the new railway – and its Tier One contractors expect to recruit for around 22,000 roles in the coming years to build the Phase One route.
Meanwhile, an estimated 400,000 supply chain contract opportunities for businesses will be created during Phase One of HS2, supporting thousands of jobs on site and many more around the country, and using the best of British skills and innovation.
What engineering feats will be incorporated into Phase One of HS2?
· The Phase One route is 140 miles (225km) long with more than half of the route either in a cutting or tunnel.
· There are 32 miles of tunnel on Phase One. The Chiltern Tunnel is 10 miles (16km) long – the longest and deepest (90 metres) on the route. The London tunnel is 13 miles (21km) in length.
· HS2 will be using 10 tunnel boring machines (TBMs) on the programme. Its first two TBMs have been named – Florence and Cecilia – according to tunnelling tradition
Tunnel Boring Machines Cecilia Florence
· Over 50 viaducts will be built, including what will be the UK’s longest viaduct in the Colne Valley. At over two miles (3.4km) long, it is over half a mile (one km) longer that the Forth Bridge in Scotland. Delta Junction outside Birmingham is six miles (9.5km) long and consists of seven bridges and viaducts spanning three rail lines, eight roads, five rivers and canals and the M6 motorway.
Colne Valley Viaduct visualisation
· There will be over 110 embankments, 70 cuttings and 150 bridges.
· 15,000 freight trains will take 1.5 million construction lorries off the road.
· There are two railway depots.
· Phase One will need over one million tonnes of steel.
· Over 2,000 cranes, tipper trucks, dumpers and excavators will be used
· There will be over 200 construction sites
Will there be a new fleet of locomotives?
HS2 is currently in the process of procuring a new fleet of standard gauge high-speed trainsets that will be among the fastest in the world, designed to run up to 360km/h (225mph).
The Control, Command, Signalling (CCS) and Traffic Management (TM) systems for HS2 will utilise European Train Control System (ETCS) signalling and the latest TM technology. This means that, instead of traditional lineside coloured lights, HS2 will use a high-tech signalling system that feeds information directly into the cab, allowing faster and more frequent services.
Once complete, up to 48 HS2 trains will be running on the rail network every hour. Up to 18 HS2 trains will run north from London every hour and up to 18 trains will arrive, each carrying up to 1,100 passengers. From Birmingham, up to six further HS2 trains will run north every hour, with six arriving.
For example, from the West Midlands, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, London, the East Midlands, York and Wigan will all be within an hour’s journey, opening up new work, business and leisure opportunities for millions of people.
HS2 trains will be classic-compatible, meaning they can also run on the existing rail network. This will ensure that towns and cities off the high-speed route can benefit from the new line’s enhanced connectivity and substantial journey time savings, once a HS2 train joins onto the new infrastructure.
How has history been preserved during the initial works on this route?
Ahead of main construction, the largest archaeology programme ever undertaken in the UK has been taking place along the line of HS2’s route.
More than 1,000 archaeologists, specialists, scientists and conservators have been exploring and recording over 60 archaeological sites for HS2, revealing over 10,000 years of British history – from the Prehistoric period to World War Two.
For example, in early 2020, HS2 unearthed what is thought to be the world’s oldest railway roundhouse on the site of their new Birmingham Curzon Street station. Designed by 19th century engineer Robert Stephenson, it was first operational in 1837.
Curzon Street roundhouse Birmingham
Meanwhile, archaeologists working on the project at Euston station in London discovered the remains of Captain Matthew Flinders. The Royal Navy explorer led the first circumnavigation of Australia and is credited with giving the country its name. His burial site was among 40,000 other human remains exhumed from St James’s burial ground and they will all be respectfully reinterred at a location to be announced.
There are a lot of questions about the environmental impact, what are the benefits of this new line on the environment?
HS2 will be Britain’s low carbon alternative for long distance travel. An HS2 journey will emit very low levels of carbon per passenger kilometre compared to road or air, and lower than the average across the UK’s existing rail network.
HS2 is determined to minimise its carbon footprint during design, construction and operation by innovating with new technologies (e.g. investigating the availability of low carbon, high performance concrete, and the use of solar and electric power rather than diesel for onsite units and machinery), designing the railway to be energy efficient and reducing the amount of materials use during construction.
The carbon footprint of HS2 Phase One between London and the West Midlands (including construction and 120 years of operation) will emit less carbon than the UK road network does in one month.
HS2 is also delivering an unprecedented programme of tree planting and habitat creation alongside the new railway, with seven million new trees and shrubs set to be planted between London and Birmingham alone, new native woodland planted to link up ancient woodland and tailored mitigation plans in place for protected species.
Colne Valley Viaduct visualisation
All images copyright of HS2 Ltd
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