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Time for HS2 phase 1 civil contractor designs should be ‘revisited’

The time allowed for developing civil engineering contractor designs should be “revisited” for HS2 phase 1, according to a recommendation by the project’s Independent Design panel.

In her latest report, Professor Sadie Morgan, chair of the panel, stated that HS2’s approach to engaging with the newly appointed phase 1 contractors in ‘hot start’ sessions on meeting the scheme’s design vision was welcome.

But whilst supportive of the emphasis on design quality, she stressed that the panel recommends that the time allowed for contractor design “should be revisited”.

“Allowing sufficient time to develop civil engineering designs could result in significant long-term gains,” argued Prof Morgan.

The panel chair, who is one of the founding partners of Bermondsey-based architectural practice dRMM and a National Infrastructure Commissioner, said that after raising concerns about the ambition of civil engineering common design elements earlier in the year, the panel is now happy with the progress made.

“Since then, design work has been taken forward by Knight Architects, working with landscape architects MRG Studio,” she said. “The panel considers the common design elements developed through this process to be best practice, and recommends that this approach should be applied to all relevant work on both phase 1 and phase 2.”

At this stage, one of the key messages from the panel to HS2 Ltd has been the importance of learning lessons from the design evolution of the phase 1 route for the benefit of phase 2. In particular, it has been highlighted for the potential views from the train to make travelling by HS2 an enjoyable experience and for the railway to become a positive addition to the landscape.

Prof Morgan noted that there are many places on Britain’s existing railway where this is the case. For example, the line from Sheffield to Manchester runs through the Peak District.

“However, there will only be views from the train on the phase 1 route from London to Birmingham for approximately seven minutes of the journey,” she explained. “The panel would encourage HS2 Ltd to aim to improve on this for phase 2, celebrating the new railway through the quality of its design, rather than hiding it behind embankments.”

A special design panel has also been set up for Euston station, consisting of members nominated by Camden Council, the GLA, TfL and HS2 Ltd, and they have been invited to comment on the design work commissioned.

A station area masterplan is currently being developed by consultants Wilkinson Eyre. Prof Morgan said that given the length of time before Euston station will be complete, which has been a sticking point for the project, the panel has urged HS2 Ltd to “build in flexibility to futureproof the masterplan”. 

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Billd   05/09/2017 at 11:28

I agree with Professor Morgan's stance on 'the view from the train' in that many passengers do look out of the windows and the changing scenery, whether countryside or industrial, enrich the journey and help in telling he story of the areas through which the line passes. I know that I sometimes have my head down in a magazine or device but mostly I'm watching the landscape pass by.

Andrew Shepherd   05/09/2017 at 11:57

I would like to think Professor Morgan's desire to improve the view on Phase 2 can come to fruition. However unfortunately that is at odds with the desire to "keep the railway low" so as to minimise noise propagation. Perhaps a better compromise between the two desires is needed.

Emma Davies   05/09/2017 at 13:10

This is utterly ridiculous. The view of those living alongside the railway and the noise levels they will experience should be prioritised above the view for the passengers! I live in the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty and the railway will be 300metres from my front door. Thank goodness it is in a green tunnel passing my house, sadly others are not so fortunate. I would ask the author of this article how they would feel to have their countryside views destroyed and hear a train whizz past every 90 seconds for about 19 hours a day. There is no hs2 station in the Chilterns, it is all pain and no gain.

Stephen Leary   05/09/2017 at 13:29

Since Hs2 Ltd have acknowledged that there is still an unresolved pantograph noise problem ( See Pg 46 Hs2 Rolling Stock Industry Event, Rolling Stock Scope, HS2Ltd, 10/7/17 @ this is an outrageous suggestion at present.

Stephen Leary   05/09/2017 at 13:33

Since Hs2 Ltd have acknowledged that there is still an unresolved pantograph noise problem ( See Pg 46 Hs2 Rolling Stock Industry Event, Rolling Stock Scope, HS2Ltd, 10/7/17 @ this is an outrageous suggestion at present.

King's Lynn   05/09/2017 at 16:20

@ Emma Shepherd: Good lord, wouldn't want to upset Britain's middle class now, would they? Heaven forfend.

Chrism   05/09/2017 at 20:48

Emma, if you are so concerned about preserving the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty, I take it you are having your house demolished - so the land it was built on can be returned to it's natural state? Or do you actually think your views of the natural beauty are a god-given right - so your house is fine, but a passenger on the railway line should be put into a ditch in semi-darkness? And can I also ask you to say how you are actively opposing the existence of the M40, the building of which carved huge holes in the Chiltern escarpment? Or is that kind of environmental damage acceptable because you are free to drive your polluting car on it? In my little market town there were lots of lovely countryside views - these are now being lost as developers are building (much needed) houses on the outskirts. Turns out that when you buy a house, no-one guarantees that the view will be preserved in aspic. You didn't pay anything to the owner(s) of the land which provides the nice views did you Emma?

Andrew Gwilt   06/09/2017 at 00:32

Sick of hearing about HS2 plans. Just get on with it ok. Yes HS2 will take at least 6-7 years to be built but just get on with it. Stop wasting time and start building it.

David Winter   06/09/2017 at 02:11

The only real way to achieve the "view" aim would be to place the surface structures in a transparent tube, with an automated cleaning system. The primary benefits of so doing, however are not for the pax but rather: 1. Weatherproofing the line, especially from snow drifts and ALL kinds of snow !!! 2. Reducing risk of trespass or livestock intrusion. 3. Improve stability in high winds, incl of the OHLE.

Stratfan   06/09/2017 at 10:31

How much are these pearls of wisdom costing we poor taxpayers?

Ryan   06/09/2017 at 20:41

Andrew. As you know I work for Network Rail. We are not China. We are a democratic country that actually has respect for all stakeholders. Therefore this is a due process that must be completed.

Peter   07/09/2017 at 12:47

Surely the justification for HS2 is speed and spurious capacity need. If you want to see the Chilterns, take the train that stops places and enjoy a nice walk. There is a question here about who really are the selfish ones !

L   12/09/2017 at 08:26

How about not carving up the countryside in the first place? You think we want our back yards carved up by these selfish companies who have NO thought for those that live here or the habitats they're destroying? You think we give a flying **** about the view out fo the window? Utterly disgusting article and beyond ridiculous

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