HS2 goes to Glasgow … virtually

Britain’s high-speed rail project is making a renewed effort to emphasise its environmental credentials. They will make an appearance at COP26 in Glasgow. Well, a virtual appearance – which is actually quite environmentally aware of the HS2 company. With a huge commitment already made to rail freight in the decade-long construction phase, the high-speed rail project is making delegates in Glasgow aware of its overall contribution to the UK network. Part of that is the climate-changing potential of using the released capacity for rail freight.

The high-speed line, under construction between London and Birmingham, has made available a suite of online exhibitions to highlight the environmental advantages of the project. HS2 Limited is also emphasising the environmental advantages of rail operations at large. A suite of projects will showcase the engineering behind the HS2 stations, with a wrap-around view online. There is also a series of three webinars open to the industry and the public at large.

Massive construction phase

With the United Nations COP26 underway in Glasgow, the environmental spotlight is shining on the UK and what the country is doing to reduce its carbon footprint. Many organisations have taken up the opportunity, and HS2 Limited, the company building Britain’s second high-speed line, is no exception. While the rail freight sector has already been exposed to an intensive awareness programme and has engaged with HS2 to support the massive construction phase, the industry at large now has the chance to engage with the project and examine its environmental credentials. HS2 was the subject of a government review recently, and its proposed eastern leg to Leeds was put in doubt.

HS2 has launched a virtual exhibition to showcase its commitment to tackle climate change. A virtual 360-degree exhibition profiles measures HS2 is taking to cut carbon during construction and operation of its Interchange station, just south of Birmingham. The exhibition highlights how HS2 will help get more freight on rail by freeing up capacity. By moving long-distance train services onto their own tracks, say the company, HS2 will free up space on the existing rail network for more freight trains to run, taking hundreds of thousands of lorries off the road every year. They add that every extra freight train can remove around up to 76 lorries off our roads, which will, in turn, reduce emissions and improve air quality.

BREEAM recognition

The exhibits include videos that explain how innovation is playing a major role in constructing the railway. It shows how HS2 works with its supply chain, industry and academic partners to reduce emissions through new low carbon technologies. The environmental good news is timely and may give the beleaguered UK government some respite from challenges over its patch-work policy, which has seen rail freight championed as a progressive partner in their net-zero policy, but also forced into retrograde steps because of soaring energy prices, which have made diesel traction more competitive in the past months.

The HS2 Interchange station at Solihul – virtually (HS2)

HS2 say they chose Interchange Station in Solihull to “host” the exhibition because of its BREEAM Outstanding award, putting it in the top one per cent of buildings in the UK for sustainability and internationally recognised within the criteria of the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method. The exhibition also features pop-up information and videos about the station’s sustainable design.

Webinar series

“This interactive exhibition provides a fantastic virtual tour through HS2’s many environmental innovations, as a showcase for the project during the UN Climate Change Conference – COP26″, said HS2’s Director of Environment Peter Miller. ” It clearly demonstrates how HS2 is playing an important role in delivering the Government’s commitment to bring all greenhouse gas emissions in the UK to net-zero by 2050.”

Visitors to the online exhibition can also register for HS2’s COP26 webinar series during the UN summit, covering cleaner construction, sustainable stations and building a railway resilient to climate change. These are open to anyone to attend, and recordings of the webinars featuring HS2 experts and external partners will also be available to view in the virtual exhibition afterwards. They start on 4 November with a “Clean Construction” presentation, showcasing how HS2 is decarbonising construction and leaving a legacy for the industry’s future.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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