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David Tank WCPD HR Researcher and Analyst

BLOG - "Seeing the work up close really brings home the magnitude of this programme.”

David Tank, WCPD's HR Researcher and Analyst, reflects on his recent visits to HS2 sites.

After visiting two sites where work is being undertaken by HS2 Ltd, David Tank talks about the impressive engineering he witnessed and WCPD’s collaborative working with them.

I must say that when you walk out onto the HS2 sites, everything becomes so real. You can start to visualise how the site will grow and look when completed.

Whilst our role at WCPD is to design the future high-speed train service and focus on the customer, it was great to be reminded of the incredible engineering that is happening at the same time. Seeing the work up close really brings home the magnitude of this programme. I have seen two major HS2 construction sites, and it’s mind-blowing to think there are 350 of them lining the route from London to Birmingham.

I was fortunate to have joined other WCPD colleagues back in November last year, for a tour of the Old Oak Common station site in West London – next to the Great Western Main Line. We were given an overview of the site and shown the designs, before being taken outside to the viewing deck. From there we could see how vast the site is, and we got a great view of "The Box" - a large rectangular hole, which will contain the six high-speed platforms. When completed, Old Oak Common will be a temporary London terminus for the new high-speed trains.

WCPD Team at Denham site

This was followed with our visit to the HS2 site near Denham in January. We were able to witness first-hand the incredible engineering work that is being achieved in constructing the 10-mile-long Chiltern Tunnels and the impressive two-mile long Colne Valley Viaduct. These are two mammoth construction landmarks, with the tunnel being the longest on the high-speed route and when completed, the viaduct will be the longest railway bridge in the UK.

We learned that each tunnel is being dug by a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM), which were also used in the construction of the Elizabeth Line. These machines, which are up to 170m in length, dig the tunnels using giant rotating cutterheads at the front, with the cut-away rock deposited out of the back through slurry pipes. At the same time, the TBM installs the concrete panels of the tunnel wall. On average these machines will dig up to 15 metres a day.

The viaduct is being constructed by an enormous 700 tonne bridge-building machine known as the ‘launching girder’ Dominique. This 160m long bridge-building machine is the only one of its kind in the UK and lifts the giant concrete viaduct sections into position. Once each section is complete, the machine moves itself forward into position to build the next stage. It was great to look up at this amazing feat of engineering!

Colne Valley Viaduct

On both visits our hosts at HS2 Ltd were very welcoming, with detailed explanations in their site visitor centres and plenty of opportunities to speak to experts. It was brilliant to be able to also explain the role WCPD plays in the programme to them, and thus broaden our collaboration with HS2 Ltd through these trips.

I am excited to see the route take shape over the years to come, and for us at WCPD to deliver something amazing on the network that is being built for us to operate.

Images: (Top to bottom):  Main image  -David Tank, WCPD HR Researcher and Analyst; WCPD colleagues at Denham site; and Dominque, the launching girder, constructing the Colne Valley Viaduct.