My last update was back on October 7th, so as so much has been happening recently I though it time for update No 3. Here’s a (by no means exhaustive) round up of news from the past 6 weeks.

On the 7th October HS2 Ltd signed the contract for the first 2 of the Tunnel Boring Machines that will be boring beneath Greater London. These tunnels will be twin bored. At 13 miles each way, and with a combined total of 26 miles, HS2’s London tunnel’s will be the same length as Crossrail.

These machines are part of a package of 10 TBMs purchased to construct the 64 miles of tunnelling along the HS2 route between the West Midlands and London.

The (TBMs) are being built by world leading manufacturer Herrenknecht and will be delivered to the site in the UK by the end of 2021. They’re being designed and manufactured specifically for the London clay and chalk ground conditions they’ll be used in.

These first two London TBMs will be launched from a portal at West Ruislip and will travel 5 miles east, creating the western section of the  Northolt Tunnel. Once they arrive at Green Park Way in Greenford the machines will be extracted from the ground and the site will then be used as a vent shaft. The 8.4 mile tunnel will be completed with a 3.4 mile tunnel drive from Old Oak Common using two further TBMs which are yet to be procured. A second tunnel between Euston and Old Oak Common will complete the remaining 4.5 miles of London tunnel between the two HS2 stations. 

Once the first new TBMs have been built, they will be transported by sea before being delivered to site at the end of 2021. Once assembled, they will begin the tunnel drive from mid 2022, until completion at the beginning of 2024.

Construction London Tunnel Maps

On the 14th October details of a 5 year study into geology along the HS2 route was announced in a partnership with Bath University and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) in a major study of the geology beneath the first phase of Britain’s new high speed railway between the West Midlands and London.  You can read the full details here.

A few days later on the 19th October the designs for the HS2 viaducts at Edgcote (515m long) and Lower Thorpe (210m long) in Northamptonshire were unveiled, along with details of major new wildlife sites and environmental mitigation that will be created. Full detail are here.

An artists impression of the new Edgecote viaduct. (Copyright HS2 Ltd).

Over the weekend of the 24-25th October another engineering milestone was celebrated when a 45 metre, 914 tonne modular bridge was moved into place over the M42 motorway in just 45 minutes! Just like last time, the motorway reopened 24 hours ahead of schedule. More here.

On the 27th October HS2 revealed updated designs for the Canterbury Works vent shaft headhouse and compound, in South Kilburn, London. It will be one of four structures that will be built to provide ventilation and emergency access to the high speed rail line for the 4.5mile long Euston Tunnel between Euston and Old Oak Common. More Here.

Design for the Canterbury Works headhouse and compound. The Canterbury Works site is located in South Kilburn, behind Canterbury Road and Canterbury Terrace and next to the existing railway tracks. Picture Copyright HS2 Ltd.

Just 3 days later, the final design for the Little Missenden vent shaft headhouse was revealed. This will provide ventilation and emergency access to the high-speed railway’s 10 mile-long Chilterns tunnel below. The headhouse is one of four that will be built above a vent shafts leading down to the high speed rail tunnel and is similar in style to the HS2 headhouse at Chalfont St Peter announced earlier this year. More here.

The pace of announcements in November didn’t slack off. There was a slew of news on virtual Meet the Contractor events, substantial grants to community funds and innovative robot technology for the TBMs as well as gold awards for sustainability.

Then, on the 23rd November, the 4 day virtual ‘Meet the contractor’ event went live, with around £12bn worth of contract opportunities. Needless to say, there’s been a lot of interest. You can find out more here.  

On the same day HS2 issued an invitation to tender to five bidders in the running to design, deliver and maintain almost 300 state-of-the-art lifts and escalators for HS2’s four major new stations. The contract is divided into two separate packages for lifts worth up to £267m and escalators worth up to £198m. Shortlisted bidders are;

  • Fujitec UK Ltd
  • Kone Plc
  • Otis Ltd
  • Schindler Ltd
  • Thyssenkrupp Elevator UK Ltd

There’s more details here.

The political front hasn’t been forgotten either. Yesterday the Government published a statement of reasons command paper for the High-Speed Rail (West Midlands to Crewe) Bill. The command paper is titled the ‘Government overview of the case for HS2 Phase 2a and its environmental impacts – Update for the House of Lords’. This is required by Parliamentary Standing Order 83A(9) to assist the House during the third reading of the High-Speed Rail (West Midlands to Crewe) Bill. This document summarises the work that has already been done to assess, control and mitigate the environmental impacts of HS2 Phase 2a, and explains why the government continues to take the view that the HS2 Phase 2a project is worthy of its support.

The 24th was also the day HS2 Ltd invited contractors to bid for first major civils work north of the West Midlands, on the phase 2a route to Crewe. Known as ‘Early Civils Work – Package 2’ (ECW2), the new £50m programme includes a range of enabling works designed to reduce disruption during the main build stage of the project. This includes major highways works and associated utility diversions as well as a range of environmental and other surveys along the 58km route. In a separate deal was a detailed programme of ground investigation along the 2a route, with Hs2 confirming that the latest package – worth £25-30m – has been awarded to Balfour Beatty. More here.

Last on the list is today’s announcement that HS2 and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) have agreed to work together to deliver the utility diversions required to enable the planned Birmingham Eastside extension to serve the new HS2 Curzon Street Station on its proposed route to Digbeth. Details here.

Phew! I really do need to do these updates more often! As you can see, there’s a huge amount going on at the moment – and that’s without other work on the ground, such as the continued arrival of the Chiltern Tunnel Boring machines from Germany, whose components continue to be shipped in and moved to sites on the Phase 1 route.

There’s also utilities work still happening, with National Power having successfully installed a bridge at Denham (despite the actions of the tiny protest camp in the area) ready to begin installing the new HV pylons that will replace the old route. Away from the Chilterns and Warwickshire work is picking up the pace in Staffordshire, where clearance of trees and scrub has picked up the pace. You can find a detailed look at what’s happening up and down the HS2 route by taking a look at the excellent ‘HS2 in your area’ website.

Needless to say, the protests against HS2 have had no significant effect and are well past their peak due to a combination of factors. They never managed to attract large numbers of people and many of the real activists have rendered themselves useless by getting arrested and being subject to bail conditions/injunctions. Nowadays protests are very small scale and tend to involve one or two people climbing on to lorries before being nicked by the police and carted off to the local cop-shop. The minor delays they cause to HS2 work is out of proportion to the inconvenience they cause to locals – who’re getting increasingly unhappy with what they see as a waste of everyone’s time! As protesters seem to be spending more time in court than they do trying to stop HS2 I can only see one way this is going…

Hopefully, once the latest ‘lockdown’ has eased and we know what the new rules are I’ll be able to begin bringing you bulletins from events along the route. In the meantime, I’ll do another update in December. Watch this space…

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!