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HS2 opens rail logistics hub for work in London


HS2 has officially opened its logistics hub at Willesden junction, which is intended to be the epicentre of its tunnelling work in London.

By creating a logistics hub it calls the “beating heart” of London tunnelling operations, it hopes to maintain high efficiency and minimise environmental impact. The 30-acre rail site will erase the need for an estimated one million lorry movements on the road and take 5.6 million tonnes of earth from 26 miles of the capital’s tunnelling works. It will be the site where construction materials such as the 100,000 pre-cast tunnel rings will also be delivered by train.

After being processed at the site, earth will be taken by train to three locations across the UK – Barrington in Cambridgeshire, Cliffe in Kent, and Rugby in Warwickshire – where it will be put to beneficial reuse, filling voids which will then be used as a basis for redevelopment, such as house building.

The 30-acre site in Willesden will be at centre of the logistics operation for HS2 in London.

The hub sits on the old Freightliner Terminal site that first opened in 1967. It went on to become one of nine regional freight terminals developed specifically to handle Channel Tunnel intermodal traffic but eventually went into disuse in 2005. The site’s connections to the conventional railway make it an ideal location to coordinate HS2’s London logistics operation.

Mark Thurston, HS2.

Speaking at the opening of HS2’s logistics hub, HS2’s chief executive officer Mark Thurston said: “In building Britain’s new high-speed railway, HS2 is committed to protecting the environment and minimising our carbon footprint during design, construction and operation. As a result, we are moving as much material as we can by rail as part of our Materials by Rail programme.

“The logistics hub at Willesden will be the beating heart of our London logistics operation and is a critical part of how we are building HS2.”

The operation is being coordinated from a refurbished building on the site. Sheffield based SME, 3Squared, has developed a bespoke rail logistics software solution to manage and track the railway materials movements in and out.

James Richardson, SCS JV.

Speaking about the scale of the operation, Skanska Costain STRABAG joint venture managing director James Richardson said: “The logistics hub is central to the London Tunnels programme. Collaborating with other partners delivering HS2, we will remove 5.6million tonnes of spoil by rail and bringing in our tunnel segments, taking one million lorry journeys off the road.

“We are committed to reducing our environmental impact and by using rail we will reduce our carbon emissions for logistics by 40%.”

Tim Jones, 3Squared.

Tim Jones, managing director of 3Squared, said: “It is fantastic to see the hard work and effort coming to fruition in this large-scale logistics operation, which will radically improve efficiencies and operations across the wider UK transport network. Joining the HS2 project has marked an exciting chapter in 3Squared’s journey, and we look forward to continuing to work with SCS JV and providing our technological skill and expertise, as HS2 progresses.”

The logistics trains are currently operated by GB Railfreight and the operation is the result of planning between HS2, Network Rail, SCS JV and HS2’s supply chain. The first train departed the site at the end of June, taking 1,470 tonnes of spoil to Barrington in Cambridgeshire.

John Smith, GB Railfreight.

John Smith, managing director of GB Railfreight said: “Today’s opening marks a huge commitment to reducing the impact of carbon emissions caused by construction and we’re proud to jointly recognise this with HS2 by unveiling the fittingly rebranded Class 66, ‘The Green Progressor’.

“HS2 Willesden’s logistics hub promises to support the growth of rail freight in the UK by removing one million HGVs from our capital’s roads alone. By increasing the amount of material transported by rail freight for the construction of HS2 in London, GBRf will continue to play a leading role in the delivery of government’s net zero targets and the decarbonisation of transport.”

Nick Coles, Network Rail.

Nick Coles, programme manager, Network Rail, said: “We’ve been working with HS2 and its supply chain on their plans to move excavated materials by rail from the Willesden logistics hub. Timetable, operations and infrastructure preparations have long been in the making and it is a credit to all parties involved that freight services have started life so smoothly.

 “Today, the UK railway network is supporting approximately 60 rail freight services a week for HS2 and we’ll continue to work closely with its industry partners to make as many carbon savings as possible.”


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