HS2 project reaches a megaton milestone

HS2, EKFB and Hanson Aggregates celebrate the delivery by train of the one millionth tonne of aggregate to HS2 from the quarry in Gloucestershire. Image: Middleton Mann

HS2, the UK’s high-speed rail project, is celebrating a rail freight milestone. The company formed to build the railway says it has delivered a million tonnes of materials by rail. That, says HS2 Limited, has taken 100,000 lorry journeys off local roads in rural Buckinghamshire. The currently under construction project will eventually connect London and Birmingham in under one hour, with extensions to connect with Manchester and the West Coast Main Line.

583 trains over the past eighteen months have delivered aggregate loads to three locations around Calvert and Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, north of London. HS2 say that’s saved an estimated 11,399 tonnes of co2 emissions. When open, the estimated 100 billion pound (120 billion euro) railway will take pressure off the West Coast Main Line, thereby increasing the capacity available for regional passenger traffic and long-distance fast freight. HS2 – designed to improve links between London, Birmingham and the north, help level up the economy and provide a low carbon alternative to the car and air travel – is now well underway across Buckinghamshire, with the aggregate used for early works and temporary site access roads.

A massive increase in material delivered by rail

The first freight railhead opened at Calvert at the end of 2020, with 180 trains scheduled to deliver aggregate from quarries operated by Hanson in the west of England. Following the project’s success, new railheads were established near Calvert and Aylesbury to allow a massive increase in the amount of material delivered by rail. The work is being managed by HS2’s main works contractor, EKFB – a team made up of Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial Construction and Bam Nuttall. DB Cargo and Hanson have operated the freight trains and coordinated by rail freight specialists, Fishbone.

Image: Middleton Mann

“We are serious about reducing the impact of construction on the local community, and every freight train delivering material to the site is the equivalent of around 70 trucks that would otherwise be on local roads”, said HS2 Project Client Rohan Perin. “HS2 will offer zero carbon journey for passengers, but it’s also important that we drive down the amount of embedded carbon in construction. We’ve been working closely with Network Rail, EKFB and the Freight Operators for a number of years to make deliveries by rail possible, and it’s great to see that our freight trains have now passed the one million tonne mark.”

Material by Rail strategy

Across the whole project, HS2 say that 15,000 freight trains are set to haul 10 million tonnes of aggregate to construction sites – taking the equivalent of 1.5 million HGVs off the UK’s roads. This ‘megaton milestone’, therefore, represents only the tip of the iceberg – literally. “The EKFB logistics team always strives to optimise deliveries where possible, and the Material by Rail strategy is central to that”, said Chris Barton, their logistics and security head. “With the support of our partners, Fishbone Solutions, Hanson, DB Cargo, RFS and Mendip Rail, this strategy has allowed EKFB to remove a substantial number of vehicles from the roads adjacent to the construction sites and critically reduce the impacts on local communities, but also transform how we manage logistics on this project.”

HS2, EKFB and Hanson Aggregates celebrate the delivery by train of the one-millionth tonne of aggregate to HS2 from the quarry in Gloucestershire. Image: Middleton Mann

The construction milestone comes as HS2 continues to make progress across Buckinghamshire. The two tunnelling machines excavating the Chiltern tunnel have both dug almost three miles, and the first ‘green tunnel’ at Chipping Warden has begun construction. Some of the many archaeological finds unearthed during construction will soon be displayed at the Discover Bucks Museum in Aylesbury.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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