High-Speed 2 (HS2) and BIM

The high-speed railway programme will shortly complete its first steps, a 73-mile Crossrail project that traverses London. The £15.9 billion project has been ongoing since 2009 and is now nearing full operation. BIM has been integral to the project and will continue to be of increasing importance as other HS projects get under way.

BIM and High-Speed Railway Are a Perfect Team

With Crossrail almost complete, the next phase of high speed railway is under way. This is HS2, a high-speed railway that will connect London, Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester. By 2033, it’s expected that HS2 will run up to 18 trains for a total of 26,000 people to and from London every hour. Future projects may even see HS2 extend all the way to Scotland.

Currently there are two HS2 phases planned: Phase One will connect London to the West Midlands, and Phase Two will extend the line to Manchester and Leeds. After several years’ worth of delays, Phase One began in 2017, with preliminary work that included letting contracts and appointing CH2M and Atkins and Sener as the project’s engineering delivery partner.

Phase One is scheduled to open in 2026, at a projected cost of £22.2 billion. Phase Two will commence in 2027, to open in 2033. The entire project is expected to cost in the region of £55.7 billion.

When it comes to complex projects such as HS2, BIM is integral to success, a fact the government has already recognised in its efforts to adopt BIM processes in all infrastructure projects. The HS2 project comprises a highly complicated set of systems, including earthworks, communications, power, noise mitigation, tracks, and buildings not to mention the array of environmental issues that need to be addressed.

“HS2 will harness the power of BIM to design and build a high-speed railway, using a minimum of BIM level 2 standards to achieve a clear and consistent approach to data management”.

This data drive approach involves the use of a common data environment to store graphical and non-graphical data, allowing data to be drawn directly from a central location for the development of 2D and 3D plans, as well as accurate and highly detailed task and materials lists. For any size project these capabilities alone make BIM incredibly useful, but for an infrastructure project on the scale of the high-speed railway project, BIM is imperative.

For instance, using BIM process means that:

  • Everyone working on the project, including designers, contractors, and suppliers, all have clear data and specifications.
  • Clear instructions provided by the EIR mean that right data is available exactly when it’s needed, and all tools and materials are available for use at the right time, by the right people.
  • With all data available within the common data environment, all the necessary information is there to make good design decisions allowing for more design innovation and optimised selection of construction materials. For projects on a scale as HS2, this can translate into significant savings, a reduced carbon footprint, and better, more people friendly designs.

This last point people-friendly design is just as important for HS2 as environmental issues raised by the fact that the new railway will traverse countryside that has previously been untouched by any mass transit system. The government has pledged to plant several million trees in order to mitigate the effect of the construction on the countryside, but it’s BIM that will be integral to addressing the construction or rebuilding of the four stations that will be completed in London and Birmingham.

High-Speed Railway Construction is Already Earning Acclaim

Britain’s move into high speed rail will place many demands on the economy. One of the most significant demands will be in terms of the sheer number of personnel required to staff new high-speed systems.

“An estimated 25,000 new jobs will be created as high-speed rail is adopted across the country, including 2,000 new apprenticeships”.

The problem is, Britain is already short on engineers and other tech personnel, and business owners in every industry are concerned about the possibility that growth may be held back due to a lack of trained staff.

To help cope with the demand, the government plans to develop five new national colleges, one of which is the National College for High Speed Rail, with campuses in Birmingham and Doncaster. The new college campus is equipped with advanced simulation technology including VR training facilities, an augmented reality classroom and a dedicated BIM zone.

High-speed 2 VR
BIMx with virtual reality glasses

Even though the industry is in its infancy, high speed rail has already started winning design award nominations; however, it’s not for a station or terminal. Instead, it’s the newly-completed National College for High Speed Rail that is winning accolades.

The College was designed by ARCHICAD users Bond Bryan Architects in partnership with main contractor Willmott Dixon Construction and represents the first building completed under the new HS2 programme.

Both the Birmingham and the Doncaster campuses are constructed of metal and glass, showcasing large entrance ways and central workshop area that can be viewed from public spaces. The design is beautifully modern, and thoroughly fitting to educate a new generation of railway engineers. It also calls back to area heritage. In Birmingham, the site of the new college was previously the location of a metalworks foundry, and there were once many glasswork factories in the area.

So far, the National College for High Speed Rail has been short-listed for several awards: the Birmingham campus has been short-listed for Project of the Year at the Celebrating Construction Awards, 2018, and the Doncaster campus for Best Educational Building at the South Yorkshire & Humberside Building Excellence Awards, 2018.

In addition, the Birmingham campus has been nominated for two further awards: Regeneration and Design Through Innovation at the RICS Awards 2018 in the West Midlands.