UK’s high-speed railway says truck off, Bucks!

New rail construction hub in Quainton opens for use by HS2 - arrival of first trainImage HS2

Britain’s high-speed railway project has engaged with rail freight to move 300,000 truck journeys off the rural roads of Buckinghamshire roads. The first of approximately 1,800 freight trains has been received at the new HS2 Quainton railhead, near Aylesbury, north of London, in a move designed to save carbon in construction, and spare the community from much of the disruption normally associated with extensive civil engineering projects.

The building of the new high-speed railway connecting London and Birmingham is currently Europe’s biggest civil engineering project. Rail freight is playing a huge role in the construction phase. The first freight train was received last week, as part of a concerted effort to move as much as possible by rail to and from the entirety of the 120-mile (192km) route. Quainton is the newest construction hub to be commissioned.

13,000 tonnes of carbon saved

Situated on an existing freight line north of Aylesbury, the new railhead will welcome around 1,800 freight trains over the next three years of the HS2 construction project. Delivering materials by rail instead of heavy goods vehicles is expected to save nearly 28,000 tonnes of carbon. The project company say that’s the equivalent of 126 million miles (201 million km) driven by an average petrol-fuelled car.

New rail construction hub in Quainton has opened for use by HS2, and guard of honour stands to attention for the arrival of the first train (image HS2)

The opening of the new rail hub comes two years after HS2 began delivering construction material to its other Buckinghamshire sites by rail. In that time 655 trains have delivered 1.1 million tonnes of aggregate, removing more than 116,000 truck journeys from the road and saving an estimated 13,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, according to HS2. The new site near Quainton, will allow HS2 to continue shipping material by rail as construction ramps up and is expected to handle three million tonnes of material – mainly aggregates used for construction. Once on site, most of the material will be stockpiled before being moved around the length of the new high speed line on a series of dedicated haul roads to keep it away from local road users.

DB Cargo and Hanson

“We started delivering materials by rail two years ago”, said Paul Marshall, HS2 Ltd Senior Project Manager. “This new railhead will help us continue to take huge numbers of trucks off local roads. We’ve been working closely with Network Rail, EKFB [the construction consortium] and freight operators for a number of years to make this possible, and to deliver low carbon journeys for our passengers, and cut carbon in construction.”

Hanson, with their rail freight partner DB Cargo UK will handle train operations at the new rail construction hub in Quainton, near Aylesbury.

The railhead will be operated by Fishbone Solutions on behalf of EKFB with trains operated by DB Cargo UK on behalf of Hanson. The hub at Quainton was set up by HS2’s main works contractor EKFB – a team made up of Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial Construction and Bam Nuttall. EKFB is delivering the 50-mile (80km) central section of the route, including 17 viaducts, 81 bridges and three cut and cover green tunnels.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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