HS2 will be zero carbon energy from day one

The HS2 Minister has pledged that trains on HS2 will be carbon free from the start, delivering on the Government’s target of making HS2 net zero from 2035 and supporting the Government’s 2050 target to tackle against climate change.

As part of the transition to net zero, HS2 construction sites are expected to be diesel-free by 2029, and emissions from steel and concrete used in the construction of the railway will be halved by here 2030.

HS2’s Net Zero Carbon plan outlines how HS2 will achieve further milestones in reducing carbon emissions, support the decarbonisation of the UK construction sector and reduce the carbon footprint of the scheme.

Major new targets include the target of diesel-free construction sites by 2029, with the first scheduled for 2022, and by 2030 the reduction of carbon emissions from steel and concrete by 50% compared to 2021 levels.

To achieve this, HS2 works with research organizations to accelerate innovation in low-carbon technologies, such as alternative fuels and renewable energy.

From 2035, carbon emissions will be reduced to a minimum. For those that cannot be eliminated, a carbon offset will be applied which aims to achieve net zero using natural or technological methods to eliminate the same level of emissions that are produced as it takes to build, maintain and operate HS2.

Efforts to achieve zero carbon for HS2 from 2035 will be achieved through a number of new targets, including:

  • To use 100% carbon-free electricity generation to power its trains – running journeys on the carbon-free HS2 for emissions from ‘day one’.
  • Introducing diesel-free sites, with the first in 2022 and ending the use of diesel at all sites by 2029.
  • Work with supply chain partners and industry peers to set ambitious new science-based targets in 2022 to tackle carbon emissions hotspots year-over-year that HS2 is built.
  • Reduce emissions from concrete and steel by 50% by 2030 from 2021 levels.
    Invest in innovation and form partnerships to accelerate ways to reduce emissions in the HS2 supply chain.
  • Reduce emissions from sources HS2 owns or controls and indirect emissions from power generation.
  • Offsetting residual carbon emissions that cannot be eliminated as HS2 is built, maintained and operated from 2035. This includes investigating methods to capture and store carbon emissions, such as planting new trees to absorb the carbon dioxide.

Under the HS2 Innovation program, HS2 works with supply chain and research organizations to pilot and implement low carbon materials, alternative fuels, renewable energy and new construction methods. Currently, there are 32 innovative projects under the program, with projected savings of 1.6 million tonnes of carbon emissions.

Highlights of how sustainability is considered in the design of HS2 include:

  • the redesign of the South Portal of the Chilterns Tunnel, which reduced carbon emissions by 45%;
  • making Solihull interchange station the first railway station in the world to achieve ‘outstanding’ BREEAM certification for its environmentally friendly design. BREEAM stands for Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, and is a method used to assess sustainability in the master planning of projects, infrastructure and buildings
  • redesigning the roof of Old Oak Common station in west London to reduce the amount of embodied carbon by reducing the amount of steel by 27%;
  • reduce the amount of concrete and steel needed to build the Wendover Dean Viaduct in Buckinghamshire, saving 7,433 tonnes of carbon, or the equivalent of 20,500 return flights from London to Edinburgh;
  • reduce the amount of embodied carbon by reducing the depth of paving in the public realm at Birmingham’s Curzon Street station by 38%.

Highlights of measures taken during construction include:

  • testing a new low-carbon concrete product that reduces carbon emissions by 42% compared to standard concrete;
  • use recycled wind turbine blades to reinforce concrete, reducing carbon emissions for reinforcement by up to 90%;
  • use 3D printing to produce reinforced concrete on site, which reduces the amount of concrete, reduces carbon emissions by up to 50% and reduces truck deliveries;
  • pioneered the UK’s first use of an electric forklift on a large construction site, while achieving the same performance as a conventional zero-emission model;
  • carbon reduction on construction sites using Clean Air Gas Engine technology, initially in site wellness units.

HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson said: “We know the climate crisis demands urgent action and these commitments from HS2 are essential steps towards achieving cleaner travel in the UK.

“HS2 is a once-in-a-lifetime investment and we want to ensure that the country’s largest infrastructure project, supporting thousands of jobs and businesses, is supported by the government’s ambitions for a greener future in the transport and construction.

Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2, said: “HS2 Ltd is fully committed to reducing our carbon emissions during the design, construction and operation of the new railway. We have ensured that tackling climate change is a core feature of all areas of our work – in design, in early works and throughout major construction, enabling the project to reach net zero from 2035.

“The new targets announced today demonstrate the important role that HS2 will play in addressing the climate challenge, by providing a low-carbon long-haul transport solution and leading the construction sector to reduce carbon emissions.”

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