HS2 is a new high speed railway linking London, the Midlands, the North.

The construction of the new railway is split into phases – Phase One linking London and the West Midlands, and Phase 2a linking the West Midlands and the North via Crewe.

Regarded as the largest infrastructure project in Europe, and potentially the largest we will see this century, HS2 aims to shorten journey times by encouraging people to travel by train, and in turn reducing congestion on motorways and in major cities. Equally, the aim is to reduce the volume of short distance air travel within the UK to all major cities, reducing carbon emissions in the process.

What is HS2 doing

In order to deliver a sustainable project of this scale HS2 has committed to reducing carbon emissions by at least 50% during construction and operation. This includes assets such as tunnels, viaducts and cuttings, along with stations and railway systems.

Adopting this approach has seen HS2 become the first client organisation in the UK transport sector to achieve PAS 2080 accreditation. HS2’s extensive carbon management programme which includes design innovations and carbon emission reduction initiatives, have significantly contributed to achieving PAS 2080 accreditation.

Additionally, HS2 are actively participating and currently trialling a new Carbon Reduction Code for the Built Environment ahead of a formal industry launch in November 2021. The code which was drafted in 2020, aims to be a first step to facilitate action by relevant parties towards reducing carbon emissions.”There are three parts to the Carbon Reduction Code – the first is for all parties interested in reducing carbon in construction, the second is focused on clients and the final part is for the supply chain.

So why is this important to HS2 and UK government

In November 2013 and July 2017 the UK Government deposited the Hybrid Bills for Phase 1 and Phase 2 a. Alongside the bill, the Secretary of State also published draft Environmental Minimum Requirements (EMRs) which set out the environmental and sustainability commitments that will be observed in the construction of the HS2 project. 

As part of HS2’s responsibilities as the Undertaker, HS2 maintains a register of undertakings and assurances, and records all the individual undertakings and assurances given to petitioners and to Parliament in a single document.

Incorporated in this is the HS2 Environmental Policy which aims to minimise the carbon footprint of HS2 . Within the Environmental Policy are a series of carbon minimisation actions. Subsequent carbon footprint reports will be calculated at set intervals to determine the progress in carbon reduction.

HS2 and eTool

Quantification, monitoring and reporting are key components of HS2’s  approach to managing and minimising environmental impacts

To facilitate HS2’s carbon minimisation actions in their Carbon Management Plan, eToolLCD Life Cycle Analysis software has been approved by HS2 and is being used across the various phases of the project. 

HS2 identified that the benefits of using eToolLCD included:

  • Greater consistency (e.g. assumptions, method of calculation, asset base data input  and reporting);
  • Enhanced efficiency of the quantification and reporting process e.g automated reporting and alignment with HS2 information management processes (eToolLCD has bulk upload features and can produce results by assets with the multiple functions);
  • Greater transparency and auditability enabling more efficient assurance and acceptance of deliverables;
  • Greater utility of the data (e.g. inform future programme delivery life-cycle stages and whole-life asset management, developing benchmarks/metrics/KPIs of value to HS2. and the wider rail and construction industries);
  • Integrated and collaborative design with a single online platform to quantify, reduce and monitor whole project life cycle carbon emissions. HS2 staff and contractors can all contribute to LCA modelling and reporting, develop construction components in the software (templates) and share projects within eToolLCD enterprise portal; 
  • Compliant with UK Government regulatory requirements, PAS2080, BREEAM, CEEQUAL;
  • Agile software development provided by eTool to customise features and streamline the LCA modelling and reporting process for all the users and stakeholders.

In partnership with HS2 and to assist supply chain contractors using eToolLCD, eTool has produced specific free of charge eToolLCD online training, and also available to aid users is a dedicated eToolLCD support site with articles, forums and video tutorials.

Available to all users using eToolLCD and soon to be implemented by HS2, eTool also has a  formal certification process. ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 standards for LCA call for all studies to be verified by a third party, therefore it made sense for eTool to offer this certification service, as we understand the inner workings of the software which is important for LCA verification. This approach allows eTool to carefully manage the user experience enhancing the users LCA writing skills by assessing users ‘inputs, whilst ensuring quality and comparability.

HS2 Carbon Management Plan

As part of the HS2 commitment to reducing carbon from their operations, HS2 implemented their Carbon Management Plan in order to deliver its carbon minimisation objectives across the design, construction and operational phases.

The Carbon Management Plan sets out clear guidance and will:

    • calculate the carbon footprint of the Proposed Scheme and use this as a tool to assess the potential to reduce carbon across the design, construction and operation phase;
    • consider low carbon options in developing the detailed design of the Proposed Scheme;
    • reduce embodied carbon in construction materials and carbon emissions from construction works, where practicable;
    • reduce energy requirements of the scheme and maximise the energy efficiency of operations, if practicable;
    • use and/or generate low carbon energy, if practicable; and
    • sequester carbon, if practicable.

Included in the Carbon management Plan is the assessment of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The greenhouse gas assessment takes a life cycle assessment approach consistent with the principles set out in BS EN 15978, BS EN 15804 and PAS 2080 standards. The scope of the greenhouse gas assessment is outlined below and covers carbon emissions from construction and 120 years of operation. :

An example of the proposed carbon footprint of Phase 2a from construction and over 60 and 120 year operational periods are highlighted below:

In order to minimise the carbon footprint of the HS2 project as far as practicable, HS2 has also set ambitious targets for their supply chain to minimise the whole life carbon emissions of their assets including buildings. For stations and depots this includes achieving net zero carbon in operation for regulated emissions and achieving a 50% reduction in whole life carbon emissions against a baseline for a typical station/depot.

When designing and delivering HS2 stations and depots, contractors within the HS2 supply chain are expected to:

  • Reduce embodied carbon by identifying key hot spots at early design stage and exploring materials efficiency metrics – circularity
  • Reduce energy demand: Contractors should aim to eliminate the need for energy demand at design stage
  • Find ways to minimise energy consumption. Options to achieve this can include using energy efficient systems, correct use and implementation of good maintenance practices.
  • Having taken all reasonable steps to minimise energy demand and improve efficiency, the next stage is to supply any demand for energy from renewable and sustainable energy sources. This could include installing solar panels or integrating with local energy centres or district heating networks.
  • Where energy demand cannot be met entirely by renewable and sustainable energy sources, HS2 contractors should use low carbon energy sources.

Case Studies

Interchange Station

Testament to HS2’s continuing commitment to reducing carbon emissions from its assets, is the recent BREEAM award for the soon to be built Interchange station in Solihull. The station is the first railway station globally to achieve the BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ certification at the design stage – a measure of sustainability for new and refurbished buildings – putting it in the top 1% of buildings in the UK for eco-friendly credentials.

Curzon Street Station

Further confirmation of HS2’s dedication to the reduction of carbon emissions, is the innovatively designed Curzon Street Station. 

Currently set to reduce carbon emissions by an remarkable 55%, Curzon Street Station will achieve net zero carbon emissions from energy consumed to operate building integrated systems, like heating, cooling and lighting through reducing energy demand and consumption – for example by using LED lighting – and generating low carbon energy through 2,855m2 of solar panels on the platform canopies and the use of Ground Source Heat Pumps.

Stay tuned to learn more about what initiative HS2 and its contractors are implementing into the design and construction process to meet their carbon reduction goals.