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Tue October 19 2021

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HS2 goes ahead with extra tunnels to soften impact

10 Jan 12 The government has confirmed that it will go ahead with its plans for a high speed rail network and has published the detailed route for the £17bn first phase between London and Birmingham.

There will be 55% more tunnelling between London and Birmingham than originally proposed.

HS2 will ultimately be a Y-shaped rail network with stations in London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and the East Midlands linked by high speed trains carrying up to 26,000 people an hour at speeds of up to 250mph.

High speed trains will also connect with the existing West Coast and East Coast main lines to serve passengers beyond the HS2 network in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Durham, York, Darlington, Liverpool, Preston, Wigan and Lancaster.

The first phase will see construction of a new 140 mile line between London and Birmingham by 2026. The second phase will see lines built from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester by 2033. A formal consultation on second phase routes will begin in early 2014 with a final route chosen by the end of 2014.

The government has been advised that a high speed line will deliver £6.2bn more of economic benefits than a line running at conventional speed - and around £3.5bn more revenues - at a cost of only £3bn more than building a conventional speed equivalent. The full HS2 will cost a total of £32.7bn.

Some 79 miles of the 140-mile line between London and Birmingham will run in tunnels or cuttings. The 22.5 miles in tunnel announced today is a 55% increase in the amount of tunnelling in the consultation route.

HS2 runs through 13 miles of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). New measures have been adopted to ensure that less than two miles will be at or above surface level.

Transport secretary Justine Greening said: “A new high speed rail network will provide Britain with the additional train seats, connections and speed to stay ahead of the congestion challenge and help create jobs, growth and prosperity for the entire country.

“HS2 will link some of our greatest cities – and high speed trains will connect with our existing railway lines to provide seamless journeys to destinations far beyond it. This is a truly British network that will serve far more than the cities directly on the line.

“HS2 will deliver up to 26,000 more seats for rail passengers each hour and journey times slashed by as much as half. By attracting passengers off existing rail lines, roads and domestic air services, its benefits will be felt far beyond the network. No amount of tinkering with our Victorian rail infrastructure will deliver this leap in capacity.

“It is not a decision that I have taken lightly or without great consideration of the impact on those who are affected by the route from London to Birmingham. I took more time to make this decision in order to find additional mitigation which now means more than half the entire 140-mile line will be out of sight in tunnels or cuttings. I am certain this strikes the right balance between the reasonable concerns of people living on or near the line, who will be offered a generous compensation package, and the need to keep Britain moving.

“More than a century ago the Victorians built railways that continue to serve us to this day and just over 50 years ago the post-war generation chose to invest in motorways, bringing higher road capacity and faster journeys to millions. Both transformed the economic and social fabric of this country: HS2 is our generation’s investment in Britain and our children.”

Hiding the line

Alterations to the proposed London to Birmingham route to minimise impacts on local communities and the environment include:

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  • A longer, continuous tunnel from Little Missenden to the M25 through the Chilterns
  • A new 2.75 mile (4.4 km) bored tunnel along the Northolt Corridor to avoid major works to the Chilterns Line and impacts on local communities in the Ruislip area.
  • A longer green tunnel past Chipping Warden and Aston Le Walls, and to curve the route to avoid a cluster of important heritage sites around Edgcote
  • A longer green tunnel to reduce impacts around Wendover, and an extension to the green tunnel at South Heath.

The net result of these changes means that:

  • around 22.5 miles of the route will be completely enclosed in tunnel or green tunnel – compared to 14.5 miles for the consultation route;
  • around 56.5 miles will be in cutting - significantly reducing the visual and noise impact of the line;
  • around 40 miles will be on viaduct or embankment – around 10 miles less than the consultation route.

Fewer than five properties will experience high levels of noise, the government claims. Only 60 dwellings will experience noise levels sufficiently high to qualify for statutory noise insulation, compared to 150 for the consultation route - a reduction of over 50%

The number of properties that would experience a noticeable increase in noise would be reduced by a third, from 4,700 to around 3,100. There will be four fewer residential demolitions than the route that went for consultation and there would be far fewer dwellings at risk of land take - reducing from 342 to 172, it is claimed.

The proposed route

The proposed network would be built in phases. Phase 1 will comprise an initial London-Birmingham line including a direct link to High Speed One (HS1). This will run from a rebuilt Euston station to a new Birmingham City Centre station at Curzon Street. A Crossrail interchange station will be built at Old Oak Common in West London, providing direct connections to: the West End, City and Docklands via Crossrail; to the South West and Wales via the Great Western Main line; and to Heathrow via the Heathrow Express.

A second interchange station will be constructed where the line of route passes the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) and Birmingham Airport close to Junction 6 of the M42. It will offer direct links to Birmingham Airport, the National Exhibition Centre and the M6 and M42. A direct link to HS1 will be provided in tunnel from Old Oak Common to the existing North London Line, from where existing infrastructure can be used to reach the HS1 line north of St Pancras.

Phase 2 will see the new high speed line running on to Manchester and separately to Leeds. HS2 Ltd is currently engaged in detailed planning work for options for these routes, including stations in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire, as well as for a spur link to Heathrow. Connections onto the existing West and East Coast main lines will also be included, allowing direct high speed train services to be operated to cities including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Liverpool, Preston, Lancaster, York, Durham and Darlington. Further consideration will also be given to extending the network subsequently to these and other major destinations.

Transport benefits

  • Birmingham to Leeds rail journey cut from 2 hours to 57 minutes
  • Manchester to London cut from 2 hours 8 minutes to 1 hour 8 minutes
  • Birmingham to London cut from 1 hour 24 minutes to 45 minutes, 4 minutes less than the fastest 49 minute service featured in the consultation.

The trains

HS2 trains will be up to 400 metres long with 1,100 seats, travelling at speeds of up to 250mph. Double decker trains could be introduced to run on the HS2 network and would be compatible with HS1 and the Channel Tunnel. Services using HS2 and existing rail lines will use standard-size non-double decker high speed trains.

The economic case

The cost of constructing a Y shaped network linking London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, as well as the Channel Tunnel and Heathrow, is estimated to be £32 billion.

Over a 60-year period, HS2 Ltd’s analysis estimates that a national high speed rail network would generate benefits with a net present value of up to £47-59 billion. The net present cost to government over the same period of building and operating the line would be £24-26 billion.

On this basis, the government’s assessment is that the proposed network would have a benefit cost ratio of between 1.8 and 2.5.

Compensation scheme

The transport department has announced a new package of measures to help those affected by the scheme. These include:

  • The introduction of a streamlined purchase scheme to simplify the statutory blight process for property owners
  • A sale and rent back scheme to give homeowners in the safeguarded areas more flexibility
  • The introduction of a streamlined small claims scheme for construction damage which will allow individuals and businesses who are entitled to compensation under existing law to claim it more quickly and simply
  • A package of measures to reinforce confidence in properties above tunnels
  • A 'refreshed' hardship scheme.

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