HS2 latest news and updates

HS2 set to start permanent construction of huge Victoria Road Crossover Box

  • The Victoria Road Crossover Box, near to Old Oak Common in West London, will allow HS2 trains to switch tracks underground on their approach into the new superhub station
  • Installation of 200m of sheet piling completed, allowing permanent works to commence
  • CGIs of crossover box and images of the piling works available 
HS2 set to start permanent construction of huge Victoria Road Crossover Box: Plan of Victoria Road Crossover Box

HS2 have completed sheet piling work by contractors Skanska Costain STRABAG Railways Joint Venture (SCS Railways) in Acton, West London, to enable the construction of the Victoria Road Crossover Box.  

The installation of 200m of sheet piling was the final piece of enabling work before permanent works can begin. The site team completed the work ensuring that vital utilities in the area, including a Thames Water Main and UK Power Network cables were unaffected.

The Victoria Road Crossover Box site is located to the west of where the new superhub HS2 Old Oak Common station is being constructed. The huge underground box structure being built will house a crossover track mechanism that will allow trains to switch between tracks, up to a design speed of 62 mp/h, on the approach and descent from Old Oak Common station.

The box will be 130m in length and 24m deep complete with 1.5m thick walls constructed by diaphragm piling method, with top and intermediate levels of reinforced concrete props.  The base slab of the crossover box will be supported is supported by 77 piles which will be installed 20m into the ground below the slab level.

Some interesting details of the impressive structure:

  • The crossover box will have a volume of 131,820m– the same as 55 Olympic Swimming pools or 800,00 bath tubs.
  • The structure will use 3,700 tonnes of reinforcement – that is roughly 1/3 of the weight of the Eiffel
  • The depth of the box is the equivalent of 6 double decker buses on top of each other.
  • The Piles are 44m long – similar to the height of the Arc de Triomphe.

The site at Victoria Road is also currently being prepared to launch the Northolt Tunnel Boring Machines which will bore 3.4 miles North West, as part of the construction of HS2’s 8.4 mile Northolt Tunnel.

Malcolm Codling, Project Client for HS2 Limited, said:

“HS2 Ltd and our contractors, are pushing ahead, completing this work on time to meet our construction timetable. The Victoria Road site will house some of the most crucial pieces of infrastructure that are required to make Old Oak Common station one of the best connected in the UK, providing a quarter of a million passengers a day connections to the North, East, South and West across the UK”

The site will also be home to the Victoria Road Ancillary Shaft which will provide ventilation and emergency access to the rail line during operation. The shaft will have an internal diameter of 25m and will be constructed using pre cast rings at the top, and using a sprayed concrete lining technique at the bottom.

James Richardson, Managing Director of Skanska Costain STRABAG Joint Venture, said:

“Our team are making great progress on constructing the crossover box at Victoria Road and are working collaboratively with other construction partners to deliver this exceptional programme of work. As we continue to build the HS2 tunnels and shafts between West Ruislip and Euston, we are growing our workforce and offer many routes into our industry so that our team reflects the diversity of the community we serve.”

HS2 Ltd, and its main works contractors, begun main works construction of the new high speed railway after being given the green light from the Prime Minister in April 2020. To date over 3,400 people are working across London on the project.

HS2 contractors win international Green Apple Environment Award

Competing against 500 other nominees worldwide, HS2’s main works civils contractor Align JV and civil engineering company Roadbridge have won a Green Apple Environment Award in the Innovation category for their use of thermal camera drones to spot Skylark nests.

HS2 contractors win international Green Apple Environment Award: Thermal camera drone used for surveys

The Green Apple Awards are run by the Green Organisation – an international, independent, environment group that recognises, rewards and promotes environmental best practice around the world.

Align JV, which will deliver the portion of HS2 that includes the Chiltern Tunnel and the Colne Valley Viaduct, working with its contractor Roadbridge, introduced thermal camera drones to dramatically improve the accuracy of nesting birds’ surveys, helping to protect the species and enable faster and more effective results for ecologists working on the project.

As ground-nesting birds with well camouflaged nests, Skylarks are very difficult to survey, but using a thermal camera, the drone can calibrate to the ground temperature and other objects to lock onto a heat source and identify the birds’ nests extremely accurately.

HS2’s Environment Director Peter Miller said:

“Protecting the natural environment as we build Britain’s new low-carbon railway is at the heart of everything we do. Some of the country’s most experienced and leading ecological consultants are working on the project, and we’re extremely pleased to see environmental innovations such as this gain international recognition and create new levels of best practice in the sector.”

Adam Cockayne, Environment Manager at Align JV said:

“Align is responsible for all ecological matters on this part of the HS2 project, and we’ve been working with Roadbridge on this innovation to ensure that the earthworks we’re carrying out do not disturb nesting birds in the area. Building on the success of the programme, we’re now planning to find other uses for thermal camera drones to benefit HS2’s ecological monitoring programme and are excited for what the future may hold.”

Vincent Ryan, Environmental Advisor at Roadbridge said:

“We’re delighted to win this international award for our environmental innovation. As a result of this award we have been invited to accept Green Apple World Ambassador status which means our winning paper will be published in the Green Book – the leading international work of reference for environmental best practice, so that others can follow our example and learn from the innovation.”

At twelve metres above ground level the drone captures approximately a 9m2 area, providing a reduction in search times, and a clear perspective from a 90-degree view of the ground below. Using a thermal camera, the drone can calibrate to the ground temperature and other objects to lock onto a heat source and identify the birds’ nests. This includes birds on the nest, eggs on the nest and birds sheltering on the ground.

Exclusion zones are then put on Computer Aided Design (CAD) drawings and into the Global Positioning System (GPS) of machinery working on site to let operators know when they are working near exclusion zones, to protect nests and allow works to progress safely.

Manchester’s P.P O’Connor Group helps to build HS2’s new Birmingham station

Manchester-based civil engineering specialists P.P O’Connor Group Limited have joined the growing number of British businesses supporting construction of Britain’s new railway, High Speed Two.

Manchester’s P.P O’Connor Group helps to build HS2’s new Birmingham station: HS2's Curzon Street Station in Birmingham

Over 2,000 companies have won work on Europe’s largest engineering project so far, and P.P O’Connor Group Ltd is one of 11 companies to have worked on the site which will become the first brand new intercity terminus station built in Britain since the since the 19th century. 

The P.P O’Connor Ltd team were tasked by HS2’s enabling works contractor for the West Midlands, LMJV (Laing O’Rourke and J. Murphy & Sons), with supporting the vast programme of works currently underway to prepare for the construction of the HS2 Curzon Street Station and the railway coming into Birmingham.

P.P O’Connor Group Ltd, who specialise in bulk earthworks, remediation, complex demolition, recycling and deconstruction, were called upon for their expertise in the safe and long-term removal of the invasive and highly aggressive species of plant known as Japanese Knotweed.

The banks of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, which run adjacent to the new station site and feature in the wider regeneration masterplans for the local area, were infested with the plant which can grow through concrete if left untreated. The scale of infestation required the team to remove and lower sections of the existing wall along the canal banks, which are well known for their links to TV-drama Peaky Blinders.

Darren Fowles, Project Manager at P.P O’Connor Group Limited, who led the programme of work on site said:

“We are delighted to be supporting the construction of this once-in-a-lifetime project and it’s great that Manchester firms are winning work on this first phase of the project.

“We hope the work we have delivered will stand us in good stead to secure more contract opportunities, particularly as HS2 extends to the Midlands and the North.”

An estimated 400,000 supply chain contract opportunities for UK businesses will be created during Phase One of HS2, supporting thousands of jobs on site and many more around the country. It is estimated that around 95% of those contract opportunities will be won by UK- based businesses and around two thirds of those will be small and medium sized enterprises.

David Poole, HS2 Ltd’s Procurement and Commercial Director said:

“Businesses right across the UK are winning work on HS2 and this is helping to sustain and support new jobs at a crucial time.

“HS2 is playing a pivotal role in Britain’s economic recovery and I’m delighted to see that companies in the North of England are securing contracts on this first phase of the project.”

Other work overseen by LM JV (Laing O’Rourke and J. Murphy & Sons) on the site includes diversions of utilities, which will future-proof the area for Birmingham’s tram extension.

The transformative refurbishment of the Grade 1 listed Old Curzon Street Station is just about to start, marking the next phase of work around the new high speed terminus. HS2 will also announce the Curzon Street Station delivery contract award in 2021.

For more information about opportunities within HS2’s supply chain visit hs2.org.uk/building-hs2/supply-chain/

HS2 shortlists Track Systems and Tunnel and Lineside M&E suppliers

Following on from the start of construction, today’s announcement unlocks more opportunities for Britain’s construction and engineering sector, hard-hit by the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Both sets of contract opportunities cover design and construction between London, Birmingham and Crewe, where HS2 trains will join the existing West Coast Mainline. The winners of the Track systems contracts will also take a lead role in managing and coordinating the complex interfaces between the track and other elements of the rail systems.

The following organisations will be invited to tender for Track Systems:

Lot 1 – Phase One (Urban – London and Birmingham) – £434m

  • Balfour Beatty Group Ltd, ETF SAS, TSO SAS (BBVT Joint Venture)
  • Ferrovial Construction (UK) Ltd and BAM Nuttall Ltd (Ferrovial-BAM Joint Venture)
  • Colas Rail Ltd
  • STRABAG AG UK and Rhomberg Sersa UK (STRABAG Rhomberg Sersa Joint Venture)

Lot 2 – Phase One (Open Route – Central) – £526m

  • Balfour Beatty Group Ltd, ETF SAS, TSO SAS (BBVT Joint Venture)
  • Ferrovial Construction (UK) Ltd and BAM Nuttall Ltd (Ferrovial-BAM Joint Venture)
  • Colas Rail Ltd
  • STRABAG AG UK and Rhomberg Sersa UK (STRABAG Rhomberg Sersa Joint Venture)

Lot 3 – Phase One (Open Route – North) – £566m

  • Balfour Beatty Group Ltd, ETF SAS, TSO SAS (BBVT Joint Venture)
  • Ferrovial Construction (UK) Ltd and BAM Nuttall Ltd (Ferrovial-BAM Joint Venture)
  • Colas Rail Ltd

Lot 4 – Phase 2a (Track) – £431m

  • Balfour Beatty Group Ltd, ETF SAS, TSO SAS (BBVT Joint Venture)
  • Ferrovial Construction (UK) Ltd and BAM Nuttall Ltd (Ferrovial-BAM Joint Venture)
  • Colas Rail Ltd
  • STRABAG AG UK and Rhomberg Sersa UK (STRABAG Rhomberg Sersa Joint Venture)

Rail, switches and crossings and pre-cast slab track will be delivered by separate suppliers – with the Track Systems contractor coordinating the design, logistics and installation. The winning bidders are set to commence work on site once the tunnels, bridges, viaducts and earthworks are complete.

The winning Track Systems contractors will oversee the design and construction of plain line track, switches and crossings, an infrastructure maintenance depot, managing construction logistics and supporting the testing and commissioning phase. They will also act as Construction Design and Management (CDM) Principal Contractor for the trace and be responsible for logistics and consents co-ordination.

The winner of the estimated £498m Tunnel and Lineside M&E package will be a Principal Contractor, delivering the design, supply, manufacture, installation, testing, commissioning and maintenance (until handover) of the Phase One and Phase 2a Tunnel and Lineside M&E systems.

This includes the tunnel services within the shafts, tunnels and cross-passages, low voltage power services and distribution in the open route. The contractor will also design, supply, install, test and commission the tunnel ventilation systems.

The following organisations will be invited to tender for Tunnel and Lineside M&E:

  • Alstom Transport UK Ltd
  • Balfour Beatty Bailey Joint Venture (BBB JV) – a joint venture between Balfour Beatty Group Ltd and NG Bailey Ltd
  • Costain Group PLC

HS2 Ltd’s Procurement and Commercial Director, David Poole said:

“Rail systems are some of the most important parts of the HS2 project – the high-tech equipment and systems that will allow our trains to deliver an unparalleled service in terms of speed, frequency and reliability.

“The appointment of the Track Systems and M&E suppliers will be an important milestone for the project, and a significant opportunity for the industry and the wider supply chain. At the peak of construction, HS2 will support around 30,000 jobs and contracts like this will provide a real boost for employers across the supply chain, helping to boost skills and provide opportunities for years to come.”

Contracts for Track Systems and Tunnels and Lineside M&E are expected to be awarded in 2022.

HS2 launches 2021 graduate recruitment scheme

The opportunity to join one of Europe’s biggest infrastructure projects, and play a role in levelling up Britain, will become a reality for the 17 people who secure a place on HS2’s coveted 2-year graduate programme.

With a major engineering programme ahead, HS2 is bolstering its infrastructure directorate by offering the opportunity for engineering graduates to join the teams charged with overseeing the delivery of the stations, tunnels and viaducts along the 140-mile section of the first phase of the railway between Birmingham and London.

Further graduate opportunities will be created in Project Management, Commercial, Design, Governance and Controls and Communications and Engagement.

Karen Davis, HS2 Ltd’s Future Talent Manager, said:

“We’re committed to ensuring that HS2 leaves a learning legacy and our annual investment in apprentices and graduates helps us to achieve this.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for 17 talented graduates who will be given the opportunity to begin their career working on a truly historic and innovative project”.

HS2 Ltd received over 1,000 applications for its 2020 graduate training programme, which informed the decision to increase the number of graduates it welcomed into the business in September this year. This year, the decision has been taken once again to increase the annual intake from nine to 17 for the 2021 cohort.

Karen added:

“This has been an incredibly difficult year for young people and we’re doing everything we can to support their career journeys. 

“In February we’ll open the recruitment window for our annual apprentice scheme and we’ve already increased the number of work experience placements and mentoring opportunities available”.   

Demand for the 2021 graduate programme is expected to be high and students are encouraged to submit their applications as soon as possible.

For more information about the graduate programme and the roles available, visit hs2.org.uk/careers/

HS2 removes over 12,500 lorries from UK roads as first freight train rolls into Bucks site

  • Over 180 freight trains set to deliver material to HS2’s main compound in Buckinghamshire in next 12 months, equivalent to 12,670 HGVs that would otherwise be on Britain’s roads
  • Use of rail freight to this site will cut 30,150 tonnes of carbon – the equivalent of flying from London to Edinburgh 930 times!
HS2 removes over 12,500 lorries from UK roads as first freight train rolls into Bucks site: Calvert freight train

The first freight train has arrived at HS2’s main construction compound in Buckinghamshire, as work continues to prepare for the start of construction across the central section of Britain’s new high-speed railway.

Over the next year, more than 180 freight trains are set to deliver material to the site taking the equivalent of 12,670 trucks (HGVs) off the road and saving 30,150 tonnes of carbon – the equivalent of flying from London to Edinburgh 930 times.

The train – operated by DB Cargo UK and Hanson – delivered 1,650 tonnes of aggregate that will be used in the construction of the temporary Calvert Railhead.

Across the whole HS2 project, 15,000 freight trains are set to be used to haul 10 million tonnes of aggregate to construction sites – taking the equivalent of 1.5 million HGVs off the UK’s road.

The 26,200 sq/m Calvert Railhead site is roughly halfway between London and Birmingham and will be run by HS2’s main works contractor EKFB – a team made up of Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial and Bam Nuttall. EKFB are delivering the 80km central section of the route, including 17 viaducts, 81 bridges and three ‘green tunnels’ and are set to create 4,000 jobs over the next two years.

HS2 Project Client Director, Ambrose McGuire said:

“We are serious about reducing the impact of construction on the local community and promoting sustainable construction methods. That’s why I’m so pleased to see the arrival of the first material into Calvert by rail instead of road.

“We’ve been working closely with Network Rail, EKFB and the Freight Operators for a number of years to make this possible, and to deliver not only low carbon journeys for our passengers, but also cut carbon in construction.”

EKFB Operations Director, Peter Bimson said:

“We are delighted to be at the forefront of carbon reduction in the construction industry, and bringing this aggregate into Calvert by train instead of road is not only more efficient, but significantly reduces our impact on the environment.

“Removing thousands of HGVs from the roads in the Calvert area also demonstrates our commitment to the local community in delivering EKFB’s section of the HS2 project with as little impact as possible.”

At the peak of construction, more than 650 people will work at the Calvert Railhead, stockpiling materials and managing the logistics and construction of the central section of the new railway. Once HS2 is complete, the railhead will be removed and the site landscaped, leaving only a small infrastructure maintenance depot.

The railhead is also next to a section of disused railway which is set to be brought back into local passenger use as part of the East-West rail project which will link Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge. The two teams are working closely together on their construction plans and a bridge will be installed to allow HS2 to pass under the reopened railway.

HS2 seeks switches and crossing suppliers for £150m contract

HS2 Ltd today began the search for suppliers to provide switches and crossings for the 280km of new high-speed track between London, Birmingham and the connection with the existing west coast mainline at Crewe.

The contract – worth up to £156m – will include the design, manufacture and delivery of around 180 switches and crossings for Phase 1 and 2a of the project, with options to extend for further equipment to cover Crewe to Manchester in phase 2b as well as the  maintenance depots.

Designed to operate smoothly, reliably and safely at speeds of up to 360km/h and diverging speeds up to 230km/h, the switches and crossings will be a vital component of the HS2 track systems. The contract also includes around 77 rail expansion devices for track on viaducts and bridges.

HS2 Ltd is running a separate procurement process to award four Track Systems contracts for the design and installation of the track and coordination of construction logistics. This will also include integration and installation of the switches and crossings.

HS2 Ltd’s Procurement and Commercial Director, David Poole, said:

“The switches and crossings supplier will play a vital role in delivering the high-tech rail systems that will allow HS2 to run some of the world’s most reliable, fast and efficient high speed trains.

“The launch of this new procurement contest is an important step towards appointing all the suppliers who will deliver the rail systems once the main civils work is complete. HS2 already supports more than 13,000 jobs across the UK and contracts like this will provide a real boost for employers across the supply chain, helping to support skills development and provide opportunities for years to come.”

In order to reduce long term costs and improve performance, the track 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 reduced maintenance requirements.

A contract to deliver the pre-cast slab track has recently been awarded to PORR UK Ltd which will see the slabs made at a new factory in Somerset.

The news comes days after the launch of another, separate procurement completion for the station building systems for the Phase One stations. This framework contract – worth up to £47m – covers components and systems that will be common to all four stations.

This includes:

  • Public Address / Voice Alarm (PAVA);
  • Fire Detection and Alarm System;
  • Building Energy Management System (BEMS);
  • Lighting Control System (LCS);
  • Customer Information System (CIS); and
  • Station Information Management System (SIMS).

The Framework Supplier will also be expected to work collaboratively with HS2 Ltd and Phase One Station Contractors. A shortlist is expected to be announced in summer 2021 with contract award in early 2022.

HS2 is running separate procurement competitions for the other elements of the rail systems, including overhead catenary, high voltage power supply, command and control systems, communications, mechanical and electrical systems, and the depot at Washwood Heath.

Bidders for the switches and crossings contract are expected to be shortlisted in summer 2021, with the contracts to be awarded in 2022.

O Come All Ye Freight-Full: Avalanche of Christmas goods to be delivered by rail freight this year

New figures reveal that rail freight is set to play a key role in the run up to Christmas this year delivering millions of tonnes of festive goods to shops around the country. Almost a third of Tesco’s Christmas range will reach their shelves by rail freight including a huge amount of Christmas crackers, trees and bottles of wine.

The supermarket giant is increasing the amount of goods they transport by rail freight to boost reliability and reduce emissions to help tackle the climate emergency and has announced a £5million investment in September in their new rail freight equipment. This year 30% of their Christmas products will be transported by rail 70% more than last year including:

  • Nearly 8 million bottles of wine
  • Over 350,000 Christmas crackers
  • 80,000 Christmas trees
  • Half a million boxes of lights
  • Nearly 5 million gift wrapping accessories
  • Around 1.5m boxes of decorations
  • Over 1.5 million Christmas cards

Throughout the pandemic the railway played a vital role getting key workers where they were needed with rail freight keeping supermarkets stocked and power stations fuelled as more people worked from home. Now that COVID-19 will mean a very different Christmas for many people across the country, rail companies are working hard to ensure people have everything they need for the holidays.

Last month alone, freight trains have transported more than 1.6m tonnes of intermodal goods on almost 3,700 trains. This year, freight trains will deliver festive food, drink, decorations and toys across the country, and also transport the millions of Christmas cards sent to loved ones as well as the all-important letters to Father Christmas.

Robert Nisbet, Director of Nations and Regions for the Rail Delivery Group said,

“It’s been a challenging year for many people across Britain so we’re happy that rail freight can play a central role in delivering Christmas cheer, ensuring families have everything they need to celebrate in style. With only a fraction of the emissions compared to road haulage, every tree, pudding and toy transported by rail is helping to make this a green Christmas.”

The amount of intermodal freight transported has increased since last year and by almost 20% over the last decade delivering significant benefits for the environment. Each freight train can carry as many as 76 heavy goods vehicles with only a fraction of the emissions meaning a modal shift from road haulage to rail will not only help tackle the climate emergency but can help cut traffic jams too.

Chris Connelly, Managing Director for Direct Rail Services who operate rail freight transportation for Tesco said,  

Every month we transport around 12,000 containers of vital goods across the country to ensure shelves are stocked and Christmas presents available.  

“Using our state-of-the-art Class 88 locomotives we can move huge loads hundreds of miles and, when running on overhead electricity, with zero exhaust emissions, making it absolutely fantastic for the environment.” 

Rail Minster, Chris Heaton-Harris MP whose constituency Daventry contains the international rail freight terminal DIRFT said

“The sheer volume of festive goods that are currently being transported across the country daily is reflective of the crucial role that the rail freight industry plays at this time of year.

“Rail freight has been fundamental in ensuring that the country, and the economy, has kept moving through the pandemic, and I am thankful to everyone working so hard to keep Christmas on track.”

Britain’s new high-speed railway, HS2, is now under construction, and once complete it will provide additional capacity on the existing network to grow the amount of goods transported by rail, alongside increasing local and regional passenger services. Building HS2 frees up a massive amount of space on the existing railway by placing fast inter-city passenger services on their own pair of tracks. Once HS2 is operating, trains on existing lines can run much closer together, meaning there will be more paths available for rail freight operators.

Mark Thurston, HS2 Ltd’s CEO, said:

“It is fantastic that more of what we eat, drink and gift each other at Christmas is now travelling by rail, removing lorries from our roads and reducing the amount of carbon emitted by transport. However, many of our major railway lines have already run out of room for more freight trains, so if we want to grow the amount of goods we move by rail we need to create more space for them.

“As well as offering low carbon journeys to hundreds of thousands of people every day, HS2 will also take pressure off the existing network for more local, regional and freight services. By unlocking much-needed capacity across the country, we can continue to see more freight travelling by cleaner, greener rail, as each tonne of freight transported by rail reduces carbon emissions by 76% compared to road.”

HS2’s first giant tunnelling machines arrive in the UK

HS2’s first two giant Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) have arrived in the UK and will be ready to start work on the UK’s largest infrastructure project early next year.

The two enormous 2,000 tonne machines – named Florence and Cecilia – will now be meticulously reassembled, tested and commissioned, by an expert team of tunnelling engineers, before they start work on the high speed rail project’s first tunnels.

The 10-mile-long ‘twin bore’ Chiltern tunnel will be the longest on the project, the first to start construction, with the TBMs set to be underground, working 24/7 for more than three years.

Welcoming the news, HS2 Ltd Chief Executive Mark Thurston said: 

“The launch of our first tunnelling machines will be a defining moment in the history of HS2 – and our work to deliver a high speed railway that will offer a low-carbon alternative for journeys across the UK.

“Construction is now well underway, with more than 13,000 jobs supported by the project, both directly and in our UK-wide supply chain. The arrival of Florence and Cecilia is a major step forward and our expert team will now work to assemble, test and commission them before their launch next year.”

Designed specifically for the mix of chalk and flints under the Chilterns, the two identical TBMs will dig separate tunnels for north and southbound trains, with Florence set to launch first and Cecilia to follow a few weeks behind.

Each machine operates as a self-contained underground factory, which as well as digging the tunnel, will also line it with concrete wall segments and grout them into place as it moves forward at a speed of 15 meters a day. Each tunnel will require 56,000 segments – which will all be made on site. A crew of 17 people will operate each TBM, working in shifts to keep the machines running 24/7. They will be supported by over 100 people on the surface, managing the logistics and maintaining the smooth progress of the tunnelling operation.

These first two TBMs will be operated by HS2’s main works contractor, Align – a joint venture formed of three international infrastructure companies: Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine, and VolkerFitzpatrick.

Align Project Director Daniel Altier commented:

“Now that the parts have arrived the detailed job of assembling and commissioning the machines has begun.

“There are also considerable other activities continuing on our site to prepare for the launch of Florence and Cecilia next year. This includes the construction of a factory that will manufacture the concrete segments to be used to line the tunnel and a slurry treatment plant that will process material from the tunnels.”

The Align Joint Venture expects to recruit 1,200 vacancies, with over 100 opportunities for apprentices. They plan to target their recruitment and investment in upskilling local people who are currently unemployed, with a particular focus on women, under 25s and those with disabilities.

This is another great example of the vital role HS2 continues to play in the UK Government’s Plan for Jobs to protect, support and create  employment, which has helped millions of people to continue to provide for their families over the past eight months of the COVID-19 crisis.

Built by Herrenknecht, a world leader in TBM manufacturing, at its factory in south-west Germany, the two 170m long machines were transported to the UK in more than 300 separate shipments over the course of two months, with the parts now safely delivered to the Align Chiltern tunnel site, to the west of London just inside the M25.

The names of the two TBMs were suggested by students at Meadow High School in Hillingdon and The Chalfonts Community College, Buckinghamshire, which are close to the tunnel launch site. They were inspired by Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern medicine, and pioneering astronomer and astrophysicist, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin.

Around 4,500 people from across the UK took part in the poll to select the final names, with Florence taking 40% of the vote and Cecilia a close second with 32%.

HS2 construction progresses at Euston as towers reach ground level

Preparations for London’s high speed rail terminus at Euston has reached a new milestone as the two office towers outside the existing station are now at ground level. Grant Thornton House and One Euston Square – designed by prolific and divisive modernist architect Richard Seifert – have made way for the new high speed station, with more space for passengers and better links to the London Underground.

HS2’s enabling works contractor, Costain Skanska joint venture (CSJV), has completed two years’ worth of demolition work, taking the 1970s towers to ground level. The site has now been handed over to the station construction partner, Mace Dragados joint venture (MDJV), who will complete the demolition of the basement below in preparation for the new HS2 station construction works.

To enable the demolition to be carried out, the buildings were encapsulated within an acoustic wrap  as the agreed methodology to mitigate noise and dust in the local area. Excavators with breaking and munching attachments were then lifted to the roof using the site tower crane and then worked down the building demolishing floor by floor. Over 35000t of reinforced concrete was demolished and processed on site for re-use on the HS2 Euston scheme. The re-processing works removed approximately 3,000 lorry movements from the local roads, and 99.75% of waste was diverted from landfill.

The final stage of the works, was to demolish the huge 2.7m thick One Euston Square first floor slab. This was completed in two stages. Firstly two 45t excavators with breaking attachments were lifted on to the slab with a 450t mobile crane. These machines removed 60% of the slab working from the top. Once complete they were lifted down and the works were completed using a 45t and 60t excavator from ground level.

Laurence Whitbourn, HS2’s Euston Area Director said:

“We are really making significant progress at Euston to make way for the capital’s new high speed railway terminus. The successful demolition of these buildings to ground level has made a significant difference to the Euston skyline and is paving the way for the new station and oversite development. I want to thank Costain Skanska JV for their work to date to reach this stage.”

Dan Hunt, Costain Skanska JV’s Programme Director said:

“Of over 150 buildings we have demolished, these were some of the most complex to deliver due to the proximity to other buildings, location next to Euston station and the large reinforced concrete pedestal at One Euston Square. I want to thank the whole team who worked together to deliver this piece of work safely using a revised methodology due to the global pandemic.”

Demolition

 The progress has already changed the landscape around Euston, as almost all the buildings required for HS2 have been demolished. HS2 is designed to more than double capacity at Euston – one of the busiest stations in the UK – releasing space on the existing mainline for extra commuter services into the capital. As a result, commuters from places like Milton Keynes could see a 76% increase in the number of seats into Euston during peak hours.

First reveal of HS2’s extensive Long Itchington Wood Tunnel north portal site in Warwickshire

HS2 has revealed the first images of one of HS2’s largest construction sites in the Midlands, which is being prepared for the launch of a tunnel boring machine (TBM) that will dig under Long Itchington Wood, creating a 1 mile twin bore tunnel, before the route heads North and swings into Birmingham’s Curzon Street Station.

This key site on the Midlands section of the HS2 route is managed by the BBV Joint Venture (Balfour Beatty Group and VINCI Construction), who will be one of the biggest recruiters in the Midlands over the next two years, expecting to recruit 7,000 jobs to support the delivery of its HS2 programme of work.

There are currently 60 workers on site including student engineers and apprentices. BBV is also one of the first companies in the country to be supporting the delivery of the new T-Level Construction qualification. Twenty students from Walsall College will complete their 45-day industry placement with BBV working on the delivery of HS2.

Current work on the 1km sq site entails a large and deep excavation, with 250,000m3 of material being excavated in layers before being transported and deposited locally to form environmental embankments for the main line.

The 2,000 tonne tunnel boring machine, which has been manufactured in Germany by Herrenknecht, is due for delivery on site in early 2021, will be launched in Summer 2021 and completion of the boring will be mid 2022. The tunnel will be around 9-10 metres in diameter.

On this stretch of the route there are two tunnels being built by BBV – the other one is Bromford Tunnel. There are also 100 bridges, 35 viaducts, 36 cuttings and 70 bridge structures on this part of the route.

HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson said:

“It’s exciting to see construction of HS2 underway. These works will not only deliver a world class high-speed railway improving connectivity across the Midlands and beyond, but will have a lasting impact on jobs, skills and businesses here in the UK as part of the government’s Plan for Jobs.

“The BBV joint venture will be one of the biggest recruiters in the region over the next two years, as the construction of HS2 Phase 1 creates 7,000 jobs across the Midlands. That underlines how vital HS2 is to levelling up prosperity and opportunity across the country, as we build back better from this pandemic.”

David Bennett, HS2’s Delivery Director said:

“The Long Itchington Wood Tunnel north portal site is a key site on the Midlands section of the HS2 route, and it’s great to see work progressing well in preparation for the arrival of the tunnel boring machine next year.

“The tunnel in this location goes under Long Itchington Wood specifically to preserve a section of ancient woodland. This forms a key element in how we are managing environmental impacts through the design of the railway. Along with 32 miles of tunnel, HS2 will also be criss-crossed by over 150 bridges and underpasses on Phase One, including 16 specially designed ‘green bridges’ covered in planting, and a green corridor alongside the route will integrate HS2 into the landscape.”

Michael Dyke, Managing Director of Balfour Beatty VINCI said:

“In readiness for the arrival of the first tunnel boring machine, works have already commenced in earnest to prepare the Long Itchington Wood Tunnel north portal site, with our expert team and valued supply chain partners excavating 250,000m3 of material before reusing it elsewhere across the route.

“Critical to the successful delivery of Europe’s largest infrastructure project – HS2, the 2,000 tonne tunnel boring machine will set off on its journey from the portal next Summer, travelling from North to South to create the twin bore Long Itchington Wood Tunnel.”

The TBM will take around 5 months to complete the first bore of the twin bore tunnel. Once the first bore is complete, the TBM will be extracted at the South Portal reception box before being transported by road back to the North Portal to commence the second bore. A large portion of the TBM support modules will be drawn back through the bored tunnel before being positioned on the cradle for the second bore.

Works on a Green Tunnel located south of the South Portal will commence later this year using the D-Wall rigs mobilised for the reception box. Excavation of the reception box will be undertaken in this period with the material being stockpiled locally.

There are a number of supply chain companies working on the site including Collins Earthworks who are undertaking bulk earthmoving. Collins, based in Derbyshire, has around 120 employees working on HS2 sites in the Midlands.

HS2 has continued to play a vital role in the UK Government’s Plan for Jobs to protect, support and create employment, which has helped millions of people to continue to provide for their families over the past eight months of the COVID-19 crisis.

Further supply chain companies working on the site include:

  • SB3, a joint venture between Soletanche Bachy and Balfour Beatty Ground Engineering, are undertaking the soil nailing and shotcrete at the North Portal plus the D-walls, Secant piles and Slurry Walls at the South Portal.
  • Balfour Beatty Plant and Fleet HUB providing the solutions for temporary cabins and the permanent modular buildings.
  • Rail Stone Solutions are the providers of aggregates and stone fills across the project
  • Tarmac will be providing the concrete for the majority of the works.

At the peak of construction on the whole of Phase One, ten tunnel boring machines – each a self-contained underground factory – will work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Weighing up to 2,200 tonnes, each 160m long machine will bore and line the tunnels as they drive forward at speeds of up to 15 metres per day.