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HS2 opens door to double-deckers and full collaboration

Phase one’s ‘captive’ line frees companies to do more with rolling stock and the infrastructure on which it runs, explains Alstom HS2 director Henrik Anderberg.

The UK is experiencing a new golden age of rail construction.

Major projects such as Crossrail and High Speed 2 represent some of the world’s largest infrastructure initiatives. But ambitious projects bring big challenges, not just for rolling stock providers like Alstom but for the construction industry as a whole.

Much of the challenge lies in the UK’s Victorian rail infrastructure, upon which these projects rely. Despite our proud history in rail, the make-up of our railways is far from accommodating to high-speed trains – the Eurostar trains on HS1 are the only true ones we have so far.

Huge step up for travellers

That’s why HS2 presents a major opportunity for the UK. Passengers will benefit from improvements in speed and capacity as they experience a step-change in rail travel like never before.

Equally, operators, train manufacturers and contractors have the chance to work together in a bid to overcome some of the hurdles that a 200-year-old railway presents.

Between Euston and Birmingham, HS2’s new line will be solely for use by high-speed trains, rather than being shared with other existing services. This ‘captive’ line means that historic bridges and long tunnels will no longer pose a limit on innovation in train design.

At Alstom we hope to take full advantage of this as we look to HS2’s rolling stock contract. One possibility this freedom to innovate provides is the roll-out of double-deck trains to the UK. 

High-speed, double-deck trains from the Avelia range benefit from the experience of France’s TGVs, which in 2007 set the record for the fastest-wheeled train, reaching 357 mph. The capacity boost offered by double-deckers would give HS2 the option to carry more passengers per train while simultaneously providing travellers with more room at their seats.

North from Birmingham during phase one, the infrastructure limits the choice to single-deck trains. For this, we could use AGV models from the Avelia range, or tilting technology that reduces journey time by allowing trains to travel 30 per cent faster on tight corners.

Next-level partnering

But HS2 represents so much more than just trains. The new line will have huge implications for contractors of all shapes and sizes, as train companies like Alstom look to partner with firms that will help them develop the trains required to make HS2 a reality.

Our new technology centre and training facility in Widnes, due to open in 2017, represents just one example of an upcoming opportunity to collaborate with contractors – from the construction of the site itself to working there to deliver projects once it’s up and running.

We are already seeing increasing signs of this type of collaboration with contractors when it comes to upgrading existing lines. Signalling and electrification are pivotal to ensuring railway infrastructure is fit for high-speed rail.

At present, electrification and smart technology represent a large and costly challenge for rail innovation in the UK. The same will be true for Britain’s aspirations for high-speed rail in general. More and more rolling stock companies will be looking to contractors to help them provide the latest in fast and comfortable travel.

HS2 is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to successfully introduce some of the latest innovations being developed in the rail sector. 

The full-scale co-ordination of the entire rail sector, as well as its conjoining parts, will help to develop and deliver some of the most state-of-the-art designs in a bid to bring high-speed rail to all.

Henrik Anderberg is HS2 director at Alstom

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