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HS2 begins first M-shaped cut and cover tunnels

The first of five planned ‘green’ cut and cover tunnels on the HS2 project has begun construction by French engineering firm Matière.

Engineers for HS2 used a twin arch ‘M’ shape structure design, which is more efficient than a standard box structure and uses less concrete.For the 2.5km Chipping Warden green tunnel in Northamptonshire, segments are being manufactured offsite in a factory in Derbyshire.This lighter-weight modular approach is expected to reduce the amount of carbon embedded in the structure by more than half. It also necessitates fewer workers and equipment on the job site.

The off-site approach was developed by main works contractor EKFB – a team comprised of Eiffage, Kier ,Ferrovial and BAM Nuttall– using lessons learned from the construction of the most recent French high-speed lines.

Stanton Precast in Ilkeston will produce over 5,000 massive concrete tunnel segments, which will be assembled by Matière.The tunnel will then be covered with earth, and trees, shrubs, and hedgerows will be planted to blend in with the surrounding countryside.

EKFB’s Project Manager, Jeremie Martin, said: “This three-year construction programme will benefit from off-site manufacturing making the green tunnel build more efficient than the traditional on-site building method.

“The HS2 green tunnels are a first of its kind in the UK. We have designed them as a twin arch ‘M’ shape which is more efficient than the standard box structure, reducing the amount of concrete required, which is a great example of how innovative engineering design can reduce carbon impact.”

The tunnel is expected to be finished in 2024.

Similar green tunnels will be built in nearby Greatworth, Wendover, Buckinghamshire, and Burton Green, Warwickshire, totaling more than four miles in length.All of the tunnels will have specially designed ‘porous portals’ at either end to reduce noise from trains entering and exiting the tunnel, as well as small portal buildings to house safety and electrical equipment.

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