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HS2's Rail Freight Strategy Paves Way for Greener Construction

HS2's Rail Freight Strategy Paves Way for Greener Construction
photo: HS2/HS2's Rail Freight Strategy Paves Way for Greener Construction
08 / 11 / 2023

Britain's HS2 high-speed rail project has found a silver lining amidst recent controversies with the strategic use of rail freight to mitigate environmental impacts. HS2's London tunnels contractor, a joint venture of Skanska Costain STRABAG, has been actively receiving prefabricated tunnel ring segments via rail since February.

These segments, crucial to the construction of tunnels carved out by boring machines Sushila and Caroline, have allowed the project to boast a significant environmental win. By opting for rail over road transport, HS2 has successfully eliminated approximately one million miles of potential truck traffic, easing the strain on the UK's road network and particularly decongesting the area around London.

HS2's concerted effort to prioritize rail freight for transport is evident in their partnership with Pacadar UK, which manufactures the tunnel segments on the Isle of Grain in Kent. The factory's own rail link has enabled the steady dispatch of over 120 freight trains to the West Ruislip Portal site, averaging five a week, each train contributing to over 20 complete tunnel rings. Pat Cawley, HS2's Director for On Network Works, has underscored this initiative as part of HS2's broader commitment to sustainable construction practices. With over 20 million tonnes of material expected to be moved by rail in the project's first phase alone, the role of rail freight becomes increasingly critical.

Despite political setbacks, including the cancellation of HS2's northern section, the construction between London and Birmingham pushes forward with a focus on minimizing environmental footprint. Ironically, the tunneling operations, primarily underground, have always been pivotal in the HS2 project. HS2 Ltd's rail-centric approach has not only cut emissions by 750 tonnes of CO2 but is projected to increase that to a reduction of 2,250 tonnes over the entire project.