Meet the ‘beating heart’ of high-speed rail in London

first loading to take away muck to be recycled and reused around the country

The first train carrying spoil removed from HS2 construction works in London has left the new HS2 Logistics Hub in Willesden. The site of a former railway maintenance depot, is being transformed to serve construction of an ambitious interchange for high-speed services on the HS2 project. One million heavy goods vehicles will be taken off the roads of London, says HS2.

Carrying 1,470 tonnes of spoil, the train departed for Barrington in Cambridgeshire, where the spoil will be reused in a redundant quarry to bring it back into use as a new housing development. Over the lifecycle of the project, up to seven freight trains per day will depart the Logistics Hub at Willesden, and will remove one million lorries from the roads in the London area alone. One train per day will arrive at the hub bringing in construction materials, including concrete segments that will be used to construct HS2’s London tunnels.

Beating heart of HS2 activity

The west London interchange site at Willesden will serve the tunnel works in London and the construction of Old Oak Common interchange, the biggest individual project on the HS2 project between the UK capital and Birmingham. The first train was operated by GB Railfreight in the early hours of 29 June. “The start of the logistics service is the result of meticulous planning between HS2, Network Rail, SCS JV and our supply chain”, says HS2.

HS2 keenly note that last mile logistics will also be kept off the roads. “One of the next measures to reduce impact on local roads in the area, is the installation of a conveyor system which will remove spoil from the construction of Old Oak Common station and transport it to the Willesden Logistics hub”, they say. “Plans for the system are being developed and it is due be installed and operational by spring 2022.”

West London provides the backdrop to Willesden Logistics Hub operations (HS2 – Absolute Photography Ltd)

Beating heart of HS2 activity

The logistics hub has been brought into use by HS2’s main works contractor, Skanska Costain STRABAG joint venture (SCS JV), which is building the HS2 tunnels through London. The hub will be used by other London contractors, Balfour Beatty VINCI SYSTRA JV (BBVS JV) and Mace Dragados JV (MD JV), which are constructing HS2’s Old Oak Common and Euston stations respectively. According to the company, the site will be the “beating heart” of HS2’s construction activity in the South of England.

Skanska Costain STRABAG’s Managing Director, James Richardson, quantifies the one million road vehicle journeys avoided. “Removing spoil by rail has significant benefits and will greatly reduce vehicle movements on local roads. The logistics hub will be pivotal in managing all sites in the Old Oak and Park Royal development area and will see coordination and collaboration across all delivery partners in the area.”

GB Railfreight

GB Railfreight, who operated the first train from the Hub, see the project as a showcase for their urban operations. John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight, said GBRf are committed to increasing the amount of material transported by rail. “The logistics hub has the potential to serve many rail freight journeys from our capital, removing the need for HGV’s on our roads and cutting carbon emissions in one of the UK’s most congested areas”, he said. “The first train demonstrates the delivery of the Government’s net zero target, shifting from road to a more sustainable rail solution.”

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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