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HS2 sets out design vision ‘from the pixel to the city’

The ambitions for the design of the trouble-stricken HS2 project have been published by the company, revealing that the scheme’s success will be based on three core design principles.

The plans come days after the government announced that the Transport Select Committee would be looking into HS2 Ltd and asking its leaders about the numerous problems it faced during the procurement process.

In the ‘design vision’ report HS2 said that the project will be based around three principles: people – catering for its diverse passenger base; place – giving local areas a greater quality of life whilst retaining their identity at a local level; and time – the design being adaptable and long-lasting for future generations.

The document promised to deliver the high-speed project by working intuitively and effectively with all audiences, engaging with communities affected by the project and working with the best design talent in a “truly collaborative way”.

One of the communities affected included Camden Council, as tracks are likely to go through the area. This led HS2 to have to offer fair compensation and cover the cost of building 90 new apartment blocks for residents affected.

To attract talent, HS2 also launched its apprenticeship scheme in March aiming to get young people to join the company and work on construction of the new rail route.

In his preface to the report, HS2 Ltd’s chief executive officer, Mark Thurston, stated: “Our starting point is that we will deliver value for money by applying the best in worldwide design and construction. We recognise that good design saves resources. Indeed, bad design is a long-term cost to bear for the taxpayer and for our future customers.

“All the fundamental principles of good design apply. Our high-speed infrastructure has to look good, work well and be easily maintained. It must meet rigorous requirements for safety, sustainability and resilience.”

Thurston also argued that the design’s major challenge was making sure that every team meets the fundamentals of good design, and also go the extra distance to deliver the innovation and the value the company is seeking.

“No project is too small,” the HS2 boss emphasised. “Everything we create is designed and every discipline is covered in our interpretation of design. To recoin a phrase – we are designing from the pixel to the city – from digital systems to urban infrastructure and so much else besides.”

The project has hit many obstacles since it was granted royal assent a few weeks ago – one of the key issues coming at the end of March, when CH2M confirmed that it would be pulling out of the procurement process for Phase 2B of the project.

This was in part after losing bidder Mace threatened legal action, claiming executives within HS2 have conflicted interest with CH2M. Mace argued that it had “never seen a procurement process like this”.

As a result, the Transport Committee will be launching an investigation into HS2 and its fraught procurement process.

Louise Ellman, chair of the committee, said: “Given the scale of HS2 and the amounts of money involved, the Transport Committee is keen to understand the reasons behind the latest developments.

“I will be suggesting to committee members that we hold a session as early as possible after recess. It is important that business, industry and public have confidence in the processes involved.”

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