Connecting HS2 to the community

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Oct/Nov 2014

HS2 will transform rail connectivity in Britain and provide vast opportunities and challenges for businesses. Paul Hanafin, director for infrastructure and business development at Royal HaskoningDHV, appraises the issue of wider connectivity and accessibility around the HS2 railway. Consideration of full scale connectivity to the community and the corresponding growth opportunity must work in tandem with a railway being created to convey thousands of people each hour at speeds of up to 250mph.

It was an online article earlier in 2014 that made me think again about the wider issue of connectivity and accessibility with HS2. This article stated that a West Yorkshire council had voted to oppose HS2 in favour of a wider range of transport improvements, for example a long-term replacement for Leeds Bradford Airport.

I say think again, as Royal HaskoningDHV’s first major involvement with HS2 has been a contract to study the feasibility of building a cycleway in the corridor of the new railway, from London to Birmingham and then onto Sheffield and Leeds, Stafford, Stoke and Manchester.

In the feasibility study the proposed cycleway could call in at more towns along the HS2 line, either by diverting the main cycle route or as a subsidiary. Clearly, not all the towns that might connect to the route are in West Yorkshire, but it demonstrates the opportunity for connectivity around HS2.

Working on this really brought to light the sheer scale of project: HS2 has the potential to transform the economic shape of the UK.

This cycleway itself could be Britain’s biggest cycling project yet and, where possible, will link with other major routes such as London’s proposed cycle superhighways. From reading the concerns of the West Yorkshire council, it translated that its fears surrounded a lack of investment between the towns and cities in West Yorkshire, hand in hand with the construction of HS2.

Royal HaskoningDHV often deals with similar scenarios of concern around connectivity. Our expertise offers a solution to appease the situation and develop growth strategies. Growth is always the underlying driver to a project proposal.

Working in collaboration with our clients, partners and stakeholders, we deliver sustainable solutions to society’s infrastructure challenges.

As an engineering, project management and environmental consultancy, we have experience of working on development projects all over the world. Examples include the largest infrastructure project in the Netherlands – the Amsterdam to Paris high speed railway – the first nuclear power station in over 20 years at Hinkley Point C, and various renewable energy projects, including Dogger Bank wind farm.

We know this country can build world class infrastructure and HS2 (and later down the line HS3) has the potential to be the pinnacle of 21st-century design.

Ensuring that a rail project integrates well with its surroundings and is resilient to the changing climate is just as important as the starting point and the destination.

Opting for a multidisciplinary developer approach should factor in the environment, connectivity, legislation, safety and profitability.

At September 2014’s HS2 Growth and Connectivity Conference, transport minister Baroness Kramer stated that as the HS2 scheme develops then the focus moves to cities and regions with HS2 stations, which can then seize the full opportunities that this brings.

Reinforcing the need to connect communities, Baroness Kramer used the example of King’s Cross/St Pancras, stating: “In place of the rundown King’s Cross of just a few years ago are 2,000 new homes, 50 new buildings, and 10 new public squares. 45,000 people now live and work in King’s Cross – many of them for blue chip employers who have relocated to the area, like Google and Crick Institute.

“Along the HS1 route, stations have attracted around £10bn of private investment. So the potential with HS2 is enormous. We want to see every city on the line take full advantage, so HS2 stations become hubs for growth and regeneration.”

Royal HaskoningDHV has worked on rail projects across the globe. In Israel, the company designed a new subway system through the heart of Tel Aviv. The underground metro stations had to be able to function as bomb shelters in times of war.

Other areas we work on include tunnelling, bridges, geotechnics, transport planning and traffic modelling, construction traffic management plans, travel plans, flood risk, airports, due diligence of land surrender and assessment of environmental liabilities.

Of particular relevance to HS2 is tunnelling and bridges. My colleague Nicola Clay sits on the Commission on East Thames River Crossings, which recently called for river crossings to be built on the East Thames at Silvertown, Gallions Reach, Belvedere and near to the existing Dartford Crossing.

The Commission argued that at Gallions Reach, building a tunnel would generate more economic development in the area and would provide better facilities for walking or cycling.

Together with our tunnel engineering consultants partner, Witteveen+Bos, we also led the design process for Brazil’s first immersed tunnel at the port of Santos in São Paulo, bringing immersed tunnel technology to the country for the first time.

Our bridge expertise also delivered schemes such as the 12 Elgin Bridges for the Moray Flood Alleviation Partnership and the Iconic Bridge, Palm Jebel Ali Island.

All these projects had growth potential at the core. Enhancing the connectivity of HS2 to the community has this in abundance.

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