ICE members from across the north came together to provide comment on the latest HS2 design consultation.
The recent HS2 consultation concerns changes to phase 2b of the project, with proposed alterations to the western leg of HS2, north of the Midlands, and improved integration with the planned Northern Powerhouse Rail network.
A group of ICE members and stakeholders across the North West, North East, Yorkshire & Humber and Scotland came together to provide expert opinion on the proposals outlined.
Whilst there was general support for the suggested amendments, it is evident that this consultation has come at the wrong time.
Design developments need to be progressed in conjunction with wider issues and rail announcements, specifically the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR).
Phasing these programmes is key to ensuring that there is a seamless service that satisfies both the longer-term needs of the regions and, importantly, the train travelling customers.
In short, we need the relevant pieces of the jigsaw to complete the puzzle.
The 2050 net zero greenhouse gas emissions target must feature at the very heart of HS2’s second phase. It cannot be simply aspirational, but must include a sound whole-life carbon cost/benefit analysis as well as introducing innovative low carbon construction methods.
We also need to look beyond 2050, with future-proofing of the route considering aspects such as:
- Understanding where pinch points could occur, particularly around areas where freight and passenger routes need to co-exist
- Assessing whether station platform numbers and length are fit for purpose now and in future
- Ensuring station design has protected development considerations
- Factoring in sufficient land-take so the land use opportunities around the assets can be maximised
So what needs to happen? We suggest there needs to be a timely approach to collaboration.
Throughout each stage of the HS2 design, construction and delivery stages, effective collaboration will help drive progress and ensure that the scheme delivers for the people who will use it and the communities alongside.
It is about so much more than a faster journey time. HS2 has the capacity to bring about real improvement to northern towns and cities, delivering important economic and societal benefits, heralding the start of levelling-up.
No-one claims it will be easy but it is a golden opportunity, with civil engineers at the very centre of providing the solutions.