Net Zero and HS2 – a greener future for rail

As progress continues to be made each day to bring the vision of HS2 to life, we’re taking a look at the environmental impact of the project and the net zero ambitions to build a greener rail sector.

Setting the sustainable agenda

Transport such as rail, is a large contributor of carbon emissions in the UK, and with more and more money and time being invested to look at how this can be reduced across the vast infrastructure, the focus for the new HS2 railway will be to achieve net zero, with every train powered by carbon-free electricity.

It’s estimated that once operational HS2 could take 800 lorries a day off our roads, helping to further reduce the carbon footprint of the logistics sector.

During its development, the continued focus will be on sustainable development goals – including a 50% reduction by 2030 for whole life carbon emissions.

Building sustainably

The environmental focus however starts well before the trains start to operate on the new track, with various schemes being trialled and operated to ensure the infrastructure is being built sustainably, from the building designs to the equipment being used across the supply chain.

Carbon reporting indicates that 49% of the carbon footprint will come from construction products and materials, which has seen HS2 commit to a 50% reduction in carbon emissions derived from steel and concrete by 2030. The UK’s existing rail infrastructure is also being used to transport production materials, with the equivalent of over 100,000 HGV journeys being taken off the road that would have serviced project sites in Buckinghamshire over an 18-month period, as goods were transported by rail instead.

A smart redesign of the Chilterns tunnel south portal, the longest tunnel on the HS2 route that will run between London and Crewe, has helped to reduce carbon emissions by 45%.

On the ground, the Skanska Costain STRABAG joint venture (SCS JV) civils contractor announced in May that it had created its first diesel-free construction site – at the Canterbury Road Vent Shaft site in South Kilburn. Connecting the site to the mains power to tap into a renewable energy power source and using the first 160 tonne electric crawler crane in the UK on the project site.

More recently in June, Balfour Beatty VINCI Joint Venture (BBV) announced it had started trials on their construction site in Warwickshire of an all-electric high-capacity drilling rig – the first of its kind in the world, with a reduction in noise expected to be another important environmental benefit.

Creating a Green Corridor

Experts at HS2 say that they can’t build a high-speed rail without causing some disruption to the local environment. It’s something they’re consciously aware of though and have pledged to offset construction works by implementing long term sustainable plans for a green corridor. Pledging to create 33 square kilometres of new woodland, wildlife and river habitats alongside the tracks that will run from London up to the West Midlands – leaving behind more greenery than they uprooted.

It’s an environmental measure that will be watched very closely by local residents and nature organisations, as the impact of HS2 construction on local biodiversity is monitored.

Destination net zero

If you’re interested in finding out more about HS2’s environmental commitments you can download and read their Net Zero Carbon Plan.

download net zero carbon plan

Information in this article has been sourced from, and was verified for accuracy at the time of publication.

The NRL Group