Environmental expertise for phase 2 of HS2
In 2009, the Department for Transport proposed the assessment of the case for a second high-speed railway line, HS2, from London to the West Midlands and the North. By January 2013, the government had published its initial preferred route for the HS2 Phase 2 ‘Y’ shaped routes from the West Midlands north-eastward to the East Midlands, South Yorkshire, Leeds and the North East, and north-westward to Crewe, Manchester and the North West (Figure 1). In May 2013, RSK in a joint venture with Temple Group Ltd was appointed by HS2 Ltd under contract C331 to support the consultations on the proposed route and undertake the appraisal of sustainability on refinements to the route.
Throughout the next four and a half years to October 2017, we provided independent, specialist environmental and socio-economic expertise, insight and focus to this nationally important transportation and regeneration project. This work aimed to ensure that engineering considerations were carefully weighed against sustainability aims and that evidence-based decisions could be made.
Preparing route options, narrowing down the choices and identifying the emerging preferences is an iterative process involving engineering, sustainability and cost analyses undertaken within the overarching policies, aims and objectives of the project. As decisions on major investments in public transport projects are ultimately political, the route optioneering process also had to adapt within an evolving policy framework.
There were several rounds of stakeholder and public consultation during the contract period; our technical staff attended scores of public consultation road shows. The appraisal process led to sustainability reports that were used for these public consultations. Our role at the events was to support HS2’s personnel, particularly to answer the more-technical queries, to encourage people to submit responses and to note feedback from attendees.