RFG AGM and webinar on HS2 materials by rail programme : Event review

The RFG Annual General Meeting 2020 was held online on 11 November. It was followed by a webinar examining the role of rail freight in helping to construct HS2.

Please click here to view the recording of the event.  Passcode: @^t6+gb5

The development of the Materials By Rail (MBR) programme for the construction of HS2 has involved a new way of working for Network Rail and an innovative method of allocating paths, says Nick Coles, Head of Strategic Capability, Freight at Network Rail.

“We worked much more closely with the main civil works contractors and infrastructure service providers than we have in the past,” he told webinar attendees at Rail Freight Group’s autumn members meeting  on 11 November.

Many of the paths needed have been obtained by Legge Infrastructure Services, which will novate them to FOCs (freight operating companies) as required. “This has enabled us to ensure the paths are already in the timetable. They are subject to change and procurement, but we needed to work on it to establish if the MBR programme had viability and could play a significant role in the construction of HS2.”

The new paths are in the process of being risk assessed by Network Rail’s geographical routes, with, in some cases, upgrading or preventative maintenance work being done to ensure the tracks are certified RA10 capability to carry the heavy aggregate products.

Andrew Graham, Conventional Rail Interface Manager, HS2 Ltd, explained that 15,000 freight trains will haul 10 million tonnes of aggregate to HS2 construction sites, but that in the south at the moment the predominate movement is of spoil from the Euston area.

“We are committed to moving as much as possible by rail,” he said.

One example is the rail logistics hub at Willesden, which will handle up to eight freight trains a day between 2020-24. The trains will deliver equipment and construction materials and remove material excavated by the tunnel boring machines digging the tunnels east to Euston and west to the outskirts of the capital.

The vast 150,000 sq metre rail hub is expected to process more than six million tonnes of excavated material from the Euston approaches – equivalent of up to 300,000 lorry movements.

Rail Stone Solutions, specifically set up by GRS Group in 2016 to work on HS2 and East West Rail, has supply agreements with Tarmac and Aggregate Industries and is working with GB Railfreight  to ensure deliveries can be made on schedule, said Ilija Radomilovic, Commercial Director.

“We were asked to supply 95% of aggregates by rail but that is not possible as we were also asked to use as many SMEs located near the route as possible. So, of course, shorter deliveries are made by truck.”

He estimated that of the 15m tonnes of crushed rock needed for Phase 1, about 65% will be moved by rail from quarries in England, Wales and Scotland to railheads along the route.

The first train load of aggregates to HS2 ran from Hindlow Quarry, Derbyshire to Washwood Heath railhead in Birmingham in August, staring a flow of two trains a day (instead of 150 HGV movements).