Building a climate-resilient high speed railway
HS2 is being designed and built to serve Britain’s travel needs well into the next century.
Our infrastructure systems, including the houses we build, our energy, food, water and transport systems all need to be climate-resilient.
Our Sustainability Policy sets out how we’ll deliver on our commitment to build a high speed rail network which reduces carbon and provides reliable travel in a changing climate.
As the low carbon alternative for long distance travel, HS2 will help to fight climate change. It will also take cars and lorries off the road and domestic flights out the sky, making transport, Britain’s largest carbon emitter, more environmentally friendly. Action being taken at home and around the world will limit the effects of climate change, but there will still be changes to our climate continuing to occur. The extent of these changes are dependent on the amount of action taken to limit greenhouse gas emissions world-wide.
HS2 is being designed to operate into the 22nd century, which includes making it resilient to our changing climate. As the new backbone for Britain’s transport network, it’s critical the railway can withstand extreme hot and cold weather, heavy rain, high winds and storms which are becoming more common.
As the HS2 Sustainability Policy states:
Our objective is to design every part of HS2 and its service to stand the test of time.
How we build infrastructure to function during changing climate
HS2 is being designed to withstand the impact of climate change and extreme weather. We are integrating climate change adaptation and resilience into each project stage. We have assessed the impact of climate change on HS2 in our Environmental Impact Assessment as well as the in-combination climate change effects.
We are working to understand and manage our climate change interdependencies with the existing rail, road and the power infrastructure providers. We are addressing climate change in our design, for example we have completed a climate change adaptation and resilience strategy for stations as part of our work on BREEAM. We are also protecting the construction process from extreme weather.
More detailed information on how we are preparing for and adapting to the risks associated with climate change can be found in our Phase One and Phase 2a information papers, or the Phase One Code of Construction Practice and HS2’s Environmental Policy.
OECD, Climate-Resilient Infrastructure, 2018:
New infrastructure assets should be prioritised, planned, designed, built and operated to account for the climate changes that may occur over their lifetimes.
Case Study: HS2’s Interchange station
Interchange will be the HS2 station in Solihull. There are a number of ways we are making the station more resilient and adaptable to climate change. For example, by directing rainwater from the main station building via a network of underground pipes into a rainwater harvesting tank will assist in providing part of the building’s water requirements. The estimated volume of the rainwater harvesting tank is 150 cubic metres, which will reduce the mains water demand for the station. Landscaping features include sustainable drainage systems to reduce the burden on surface water drainage whilst naturally irrigating planted areas, and there will be new natural habitats created around the station, leaving a legacy of biodiversity and an enhancement of native species.
Working together to build a resilient railway
Architects, engineers and environmental specialists are all working together to innovate across the HS2 project and deliver a resilient railway. We are also working with industry and in academic partnerships to gain a better understand of climate change adaptation more broadly.
We were involved in a cutting-edge research programme led by the National Environmental Research Council. One of its aims is to translate existing research into tangible, industry-relevant tools and approaches that help infrastructure owners manage environmental risks.
HS2 has also contributed to Tomorrow’s Railway and Climate Change Adaptation (TRaCCA) – a research project run by RSSB, the rail safety body. The project has provided a range of decision-making tools and information which will enable railways to become more resilient. The tools include methods for financially evaluating climate adaptation investments, geospatially based methods to integrate many of the metrics currently captured by the industry, and systems tools to provide insight into critical interfaces and dependencies, inside and outside of the railway system.
In addition, we are part of the Infrastructure Operators Adaptation Forum. It includes representatives from all other major infrastructure sectors, including Network Rail, National Grid and Severn Trent Water. Forum members learn from each other and work towards a vision for infrastructure assets and services that are resilient to today’s natural hazards and prepared for the future climate.
HS2 has collaborated with others to develop leading standards on climate change assessment and management. For example, working with the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) on its recent guide on the effective consideration of climate change resilience and adaptation in the EIA process.
There has also been collaboration with BSI on the standard BS EN ISO 14090 Adaptation to Climate Change. Principles, Requirements and Guidelines. This standard offers a framework that enables organizations to give appropriate consideration to climate change adaptation when designing and implementing policies, strategies, plans and activities.