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Thursday, 20 September 2018

HS2 Ground Surveys and Project Delays

Ground Surveys

HS2 will be undertaking 'Ground Surveys' (borehole drilling) commencing September 24th in fields off Crackley Lane and in Burton Green. The work will last for 6 weeks. HS2 will be working from a site at Westwood Heath.See this article in the Kenilworth Weekly News:

General information about ground surveys provided by HS2 is here:

Specific details about ground surveys in Burton Green are here and here (PDF files).

Road Closure

Cromwell Lane (presumably the section between the Bridge and Red Lane corner) will also be closed on Friday 5th October between 9.30am and 3.30pm. This is to enable tests involving ground penetrating radar.

Project Postponements

Construction work for HS2 (at the national level) had been planned to begin this November. The start has been postponed by 7 months. This is the second postponement to the start of construction.  HS2 euphemistically refers to this postponement as "additional time to optimise their designs".
"HS2 has pushed back the start date for its civils work, with construction now expected to commence more than seven months later than originally planned... This is HS2’s second change to the notice to proceed, with work having originally been scheduled to begin in November this year. The confirmation of the delay came in a response from transport minister Baroness Sugg to a question from Lord Berkeley. She said: “Following consideration of supplier feedback, the HS2 Ltd board has recently decided to move the date of notice to proceed from 1 March 2019 to 1 June 2019 in order to provide suppliers with additional time to optimise their designs.”"

Cost Uncertainties - Geological Factors

One reason for this setback would appear to be that the civil engineering contractors' projected costs were over budget. Part of the reason for the unexpected cost hike seems to be the uncertainty in the ground conditions.

"Leading geotechnical engineers have said that the cost of delivering HS2 could rise sharply as a result of the use of target cost contracts without geotechnical baseline reports (GBRs). One engineer, who has worked closely on the project, has suggested that the price rise resulting from the client effectively passing all risk to the contractor could be as much as 30%... which makes the project unaffordable and will result in delays."

HS2 seems to be anticipating that a better knowledge of the ground structure will enable a more accurate estimate of construction costs to be made, which they hope will bring the project back within budget.

Doubts About the Future of HS2

Civil engineering construction cannot begin until the project is given a 'Notice to Proceed'. The Notice to Proceed was originally planned for November 2018. It is now planned for June 2019. The construction phase of the project can be cancelled at any time until June 2019.

Despite the 7 month postponement to the start of construction, and the extended cancellation window, HS2 is claiming that the project will still go ahead and will still be delivered on time. Given that the timescale for the planning phase seems to have been overly optimistic, and neglected to allow 7 months for 'design optimisation' (a 50% time overrun), it is difficult to believe that the construction timescale was not also pie-in-the-sky.

Other Problems at the Department of Transport

Meanwhile, at the Department of Transport:
"Transport secretary Chris Grayling has recruited the former boss of British Airways to lead a review of the railways after presiding over a string of problems. Keith Williams, who left the airline in 2016, will chair a deep review that will cover both train operators and the track operator, Network Rail."

Or, as Harry Cole from The Sun put it:

The Need for an Intelligent Progressive Transport Policy

The following paragraph is not official government policy, nor Conservative Party policy. It comes from an article on the Conservative Home website:
"Develop a collective backbone, and scrap the £50-100 billion idiocy of High Speed 2 (HS2).  HS2 is nonsense and always has been. Return the money to the Treasury to fund other parts of the New Britain Agenda and invest in a Priority Projects Investment Fund throughout Britain.  Commit to break ground on HS3 (the high-speed northern link) and Crossrail 2 before the next election.  Revamp commuter lines into London, Manchester and Birmingham.  Prioritise the introduction of Mobile Block Signaling that allows more trains to run safely, especially on hard-pressed suburban routes.  Presume in favour of reopening old railway lines – and invest a decent chunk more in road and cycle routes while we’re at it.  Let’s show that we care about peoples’ daily transport dramas, and that we’re dealing with them now, not in 15 years’  time."
From here: