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The Engineer Q&A: HS2

Few UK engineering projects are more divisive than HS2, the planned high-speed rail link from London to Birmingham and beyond.

To its supporters, including all three main UK political parties, the project will create jobs, take traffic off the roads and help rebalance the economy. To the scheme’s detractors it’s an over-expensive solution to a problem that could solved in other ways, and will have limited benefits.

We’ve asked the team behind the HS2 project, as well as a number of other industry experts, to answer your questions on the engineering challenges behind the project, as well as the case for going ahead with it.

Comments are now closed. Thanks for all your questions. We’ll publish the answers in our forthcoming August digital issue.

Readers' comments (24)

  • 1 How can HS2ltd ameliorate noise from 245km trains over a 10m viaduct particularly when !0 the trains and gantries will be a further 5km higher and 2 the trains are not even built/ designed yet

    2 The history of large projects is that they overrun budgets. 1 What chance is there that HS2 will be delivered on budget given that the trains, as before, have not yet been designed nor built?

    3 The trains will be powered electrically. How many extra powers stations will be needed to deliver the additional traffic?
    4 If France the recent train accident was blamed on lack of investment in non- high speed track. Are we risking the same here if all the budgets are devolved to HS2?

    5 How may railway jobs will HS2 bring to UK engineers?

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  • What is the predicted electricity consumption of HS2, and how much is this expected to cost?

    the other question is how does HS2 Ltd propose to run 18 trains per hour, when the technology to allow this at the proposed speeds does not exist?

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  • 1. will the building of hs2 create any jobs for british companies/workers or will the contract be handed to a foreign engineering company, like er,the bombardier trains or Wembley stadium fiascos? and how long will these jobs actually exist for? 5years plus???

    2. wouldnt the money be better spent on actually repairing our crumbling (literally) road network? the AA recently said it would cost £10billion to fix EVERY road in britain, coupled with the extreme weather we are due to expect for the next 20 years! at the present rate of decay, we will have no other choice but to use the railway as the roads will be unusable!

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  • HS1 runs at 186MPH. Everything is easier at 186MPH than 250MPH plus you can run more trains per hour and need less land. How much energy can we save running at 186MPH and for how many miles will the HS2 service manage the full 250mph from London to Birmingham?

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  • HS2 will cause much damage and disruption to wildlife, including many supposedly protected species, yet no research has been done on the effect of shock waves and vortices on wildlife caused by trains running at 250 mph. There is even mention of sonic booms on trains emerging from tunnels. What research is planned into these problems to satisfy the full Environmental Impact Assessment and so that the line can be built safely for wildlife and humans?

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  • 1. Why was Route 3 of Phase 1 chosen by ministers against the advice of their route proving report provider and engineer Ove Arup?

    2. Route 3 has significant geological, geotechnical and hydrological problems associated with it. The Route proving engineer highlighted these issues in the appendices to the route proving report using statements to describe the strata such as “vulnerable to shrinkage and swelling”, “material has low strength and high moisture content”, “contains groundwater and will be troublesome for earthworks slope stability”, “careful handling required”, “slope instability problems” etc etc. Why has HS2 and the government chosen to develop a route that comes with such significant engineering complexities and hydrological dangers?

    3. Water loading of any structure is the great unknown in design calculations. The amplitude of the hydrology in the misbourne basin together with strata (highlighted above) will amplify the dangers created by the high resonance high frequency vibration associated with such trains. The 2005 Rail Tunnel collapse onto the mainline at the nearby Gerrards Cross was blamed on water loading undermining part of the struture. There is precedence of tunnel collapse in low frequency low resonance structures in the nearby area which can only be exacerbated by the high resonance design.

    4. Why has Ove Arup been replaced by Parsons Brinckerhoff and Atkins as design engineer for the Misbourne Valley stretch of the line.

    5. Why has the DFT justified this decision by stating Ove Arup were only operating in an "advisory role" and Parsons and Atkins are operating in a "delivery role".


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  • Has the effect of Rayleigh Waves on rails carrying high speed trains now been completely analysed and proven to be of no danger to trains travelling very frequently at 250mph?

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  • How much extra energy and peak power will be required by an HS2 train travelling at 250mph compared with an train at 125mph? Please assume the trains have the same level of technology

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  • You hopefully agree that existing rail corridors need to be kept by default (policy of all 3 main parties). So...

    Will the New North Main Line still connect to the GWML?

    Will the Hampton-in-Arden to Whitacre line survive?

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  • PS (a third example)...

    Will Network Rail's current 'Ealing & Shepherd's Bush Railway' formation, alongside the LU Central Line track at OOC, survive?

    (It could be used for light-rail to pass under the rebuilt GWML, towards East Acton station, for instance.)

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