Blimey! I’d hoped to write monthly updates but pressure of other work means my last one was in July, so there’s a lot to report! Construction of HS2 has continued to pick up speed as work on the ground continues and a whole host of contracts have been signed that have created jobs around the country. This isn’t an exhaustive list as I’m bound to have missed things, but I hope it’s a useful round-up of major events.

On the 27th July a major milestone was reached on the OLd Oak Common site. After 2 years of demolition and clearance work, the site was handed over to main contractors, the Balfour Beatty VINCI SYSTRA Joint Venture, who will be building the massive 14 platform station.

At the end of July HS2 Ltd highlighted the fact Lydney based Mabey Bridge Ltd had won a contract to supply 10 modular bridge to the project. Mabey employs 130 people at its head office and factory in Lydney, with many local people working on the HS2 contracts. Extensive preparatory works are now underway to allow for piling activities and the construction of the diaphragm wall for the main HS2 station, which will be built 20 metres below ground.

All pictures used in this blog are courtesy of HS2 Ltd.

On the 9th of August the M42 motorway reopened 24 hours early after a   2,750-tonne bridge structure was carried along the motorway on a self-propelled modular transporter and fixed into place. The 448-wheel transporter took just one hour and 45 minutes to move the bridge span 150 metres. This was the first major new structure that’s been installed as part of the HS2 project. Later this year a similar bridge will be installed over the A446, ahead of two more bridge structures being installed which will span the new high-speed railway line.

The next day (8th August) the race began to find contractors to install the railways high-voltage power supply systems. The winner will be responsible for  the design as well as manufacture, supply, installation, testing, commissioning and maintenance of the HV power supply systems.

Approximately 50 traction sub-stations will be built alongside the line between London and Crewe in order to deliver power from the National Grid to the trains. The contractor will also deliver a dedicated  HV non-traction power network that will provide power to stations, shafts, portals, depots and railway systems along the route. The contract is worth an estimated £523m.

On the 11th August HS2 released the winners of the competition to name the first two Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs).

The names – Florence and Cecilia – were suggested by students at Meadow High School in Hillingdon and The Chalfonts Community College, Buckinghamshire, inspired by female scientific and medical pioneers.

Around 4,500 people from across the UK took part in the poll to select the final names, with Florence taking 40% of the vote and Cecilia a close second with 32%. The schools that suggested the names are close to HS2’s South Portal site, from where the first tunnel boring machines will launch early next year.

The pace didn’t slacken and the next day HS2 highlighted the success of Port Talbot based Wernick Buildings in manufacturing, transporting and installing office and welfare accommodation to the M25 site where the TBMs boring the Chiltern tunnels will be launched from.

On the 20th August the striking design for the new Amersham vent shaft headhouse was released.

HS2 say “The circular single-storey building will be surrounded by a spiral shaped weathered steel wall designed to echo the shape of the site and the natural tones of the surrounding landscape. Robust and durable, weathered steel fades naturally over time to a dark brown colour. In order to let light through, the upper parts of the wall will be lightly perforated with a pattern inspired by woodland foliage”.

Below ground level, a 18 metre deep ventilation shaft will reach down to the twin tunnels below, with fans and other equipment designed to regulate air quality and temperature, remove smoke in the event of a fire and provide access for the emergency services.

On the 25th August the 1st of an estimated 15,000 freight trains that will carry spoil and construction materials ran. Operated by GBRf, the train delivered aggregates to the HS2 site at Washwood Heath. Over the next four months, more than 150 trains will bring up to 235,000 tonnes of stone from quarries in the Peak District, equating to keeping an estimated 13,000 lorry movements off the road.

A peak of around 17 trains per day will serve the Phase One programme beyond 2022. Other sites include HS2’s Rail Logistics Hub at Willesden which will welcome up to eight freight trains a day between 2020 and 2024. These will haul a total volume of around six million tonnes from the Euston approaches, including excavated material from tunnel boring machines – saving the equivalent of up to 300,000 lorry movements.

The next day Solihull Borough Council approved planning permission for the new landmark HS2 Interchange eco-station.

Next month, on the 4th September, the (largely symbolic) formal start of construction was announced, which generated a lot of media interest and certainly rained on the parade of the dwindling number of protesters who were still pretending they could stop HS2!

Throughout September several announcements were made about educational and technical tie-ups with groups and universities, all contributing to the growth in skills and employment that HS2 is helping generate across the UK.

On the 15th September a more tangible milestone was marked with the completion of structural work on the temporary pre-cast factory which will produce wall sections for the 10 mile long Chiltern tunnels. The 1000s of tonnes of steelwork for this and other buildings is being supplied by specialist steel fabricators, Caunton Engineering, from their base near Moorgreen, Nottinghamshire.

As well as the precast plant, family owned Caunton Engineering are also delivering structural steelwork for the general warehouse, workshops, soil treatment plant and the viaduct pre-cast plant. In total, around 2,400 tonnes of steelwork will be delivered from their factory in Moorgreen, Nottinghamshire, on the site of the former colliery. You can read more here.

On a more spiritual note, the next day HS2 announced that the company, working with the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England, had agreed with Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey for reburials as a result of excavations at St James’s Gardens to take place there. Some of you may have seen the BBC2 TV programme that documented the archeological work at both Euston and Curzon St. If you haven’t, it’s a fascinating delve into the past and the history of the industrial revolution in Birmingham and well worth viewing.

If you’ll excuse the pun, there was more concrete news (literally!) on the 22nd September, when details were released of the new low-carbon Vertua Classic Zero concrete that was being trialled at the HS2 site at Euston. This provides a reduction of 42% in CO2 in comparison to a standard concrete. HS2 has set a carbon reduction target of 50% target for its contractors on construction baselines for Phase One civil assets (such as tunnels, viaducts and cuttings), stations and railway systems. You can read more here.

Continuing with the theme of carbon-cutting, on the 25th September HS2 announced it HS2 had trialled solar and hydrogen powered welfare cabins across its work locations run by enabling and main works civils joint ventures CSjv (Costain, Skanska) and SCSjv (Skanska Costain STRABAG) including Camden, West Ruislip and Uxbridge. HS2 say that data gathered from 16 Ecosmart ZERO cabins over a 21 week period on HS2 sites in Camden, Ruislip and Uxbridge showed that 112 tonnes of carbon were saved – the equivalent of what would be absorbed by over 3,367 trees over a whole year. In comparison, a standard diesel generator running would have used 40,000 litres of diesel fuel. You can read more here.

On September 29th details of a £36m contract awarded to Booth Industries of Bolton, which will supply high-pressure safety doors for the internal passages linking the high speed rail project’s tunnels. more than 300 units manufactured at a new purpose-built facility in the town, and create up to fifty jobs over the next ten years.

OCtober got off to a bang when on the 5th HS2 revealed that the contract for the modular slab track system for Phase One and 2a had been awarded to a partnership which includes PORR UK Ltd and Aggregate Industries UK. The deal will see the slab track segments manufactured at a new factory near Shepton Mallet in Somerset helping to create up to 500 jobs over the life of the contract. The deal – worth £260m – will see the PORR consortium manufacture all of the track (excluding tunnels and some specialist structures) between London and Crewe, where HS2 joins the existing west coast mainline. More here.

OK, that’s the round -up for now. You can find more announcements at the HS2 website, but this will give you an overview of just what’s been going on and the progress being made building HS2. In the next few weeks expect to see more announcements, including a real landmark – the arrival of the first Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) from Germany.

If you want to read more about HS2’s progress I can recommend two links. This one to HS2’s media centre, and also this one, to the company’s ‘HS2 in your area’ webpage. The page has a wealth of detailed information on programmes, events, consultations and schedules of work covering all the HS2 routes.

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances need all the help that we can get. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!