HS2 on Friday 10th June announced the start of construction at the site of its first ‘green tunnel’, designed to blend the high-speed railway into the landscape and reduce disruption for communities.
Unlike a normal underground tunnel, the one-and-a-half mile (2.5km) Chipping Warden green tunnel in Northamptonshire is being built on the surface using a pioneering off-site manufacturing approach to speed up construction and improve efficiency.
This approach will see more than five thousand giant concrete tunnel segments made in a factory in Derbyshire before being assembled on site. The completed tunnel will then be covered by earth, with trees, shrubs and hedgerows planted to fit in with the surrounding countryside.
Chipping Warden is one of five ‘green tunnels’ that are being built on phase one of the HS2 project, which is designed to improve links between London, Birmingham and the north, help level-up the economy and provide a low carbon alternative to car and air travel.
Applying lessons from the construction of the latest French high speed lines, the off-site approach was developed by HS2’s main works contractor, EKFB – a team made up of Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial Construction and BAM Nuttall. The tunnel segments are being made by Stanton Precast in Ilkeston Derbyshire as part of a contract which is set to create up to 100 local jobs.
The tunnel will be built in sections, with construction expected to be complete in 2024. A relief road has also recently been completed, which will take HS2 vehicles – and other local traffic – away from the centre of the village of Chipping Warden. This will later be extended, to take the A361 over the top of the green tunnel.
Similar green tunnels will also be built at nearby Greatworth as well as Wendover in Buckinghamshire and Burton Green in Warwickshire, stretching for a combined total of more than four miles. The tunnels will all have specially designed ‘porous portals’ at either end to reduce the noise of trains entering and exiting the tunnel, along with small portal buildings to house safety and electrical equipment.
Tailored landscaping design plans will be developed for each tunnel, with thousands of native trees and shrubs typical to the local area such as Silver Birch, Oak, Beech and Willow planted to create new woodland areas around the portals and recreate the hedgerows and field boundaries on top of the tunnel.
All 13,290 segments for Chipping Warden, Greatworth and Wendover are being made by Derbyshire-based Stanton Precast Ltd, in a deal that is set to create up to 100 jobs at their Ilkeston factory – an increase in their workforce of around 50%. New production sheds, casting and storage areas are also being built at the factory to accommodate the new work.