Infrastructure projects don’t get much bigger than building a high speed rail network that connects London with two of Europe’s biggest cities in under two hours. A decade after its construction, HS1 (formerly the Channel Tunnel Rail Link) has carried more than 390 million passengers across the Channel, established new links between Kent and London via the East Thames Corridor and, along the way, helped to spark regeneration across its route.
Creating a gateway to Europe
Our HS1 journey began in 1989, when we proposed connecting the Channel Tunnel to London via a station in Stratford, East London. At first, ours was a lone voice challenging the UK Government and British Rail’s plans to run High Speed 1 through South London.
Our proposed route ran north of the Thames, through Stratford and into St Pancras – an alignment that would catalyse the multibillion-pound regeneration of East London, the land around King’s Cross and the disused chalk pits of Kent in south-east England. It would provide not only a high speed railway but a much needed quality commuter service from Kent to London. Park and ride facilities would also encourage modal shift from road to rail. In 1991, our route was chosen by the UK government.
300kph high speed railway connecting London to continental Europe
46 minutejourney time reduction between London and Ashford
£10bnof regeneration benefits
HS1 was the first new railway in England for over 100 years
It was also the first built to operate at high speed – 300kph. Following the successful selection of the Arup route, we were one of the founding members of London and Continental Railways, the firm that was awarded the concession to build and operate the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. Arup formed Rail Link Engineering (RLE) together with fellow shareholders Bechtel, Halcrow and Systra to design and project manage the 109km high-speed railway.
We led the planning, engineering, and design of the route
Over 1,600 Arup specialists – from transport consultants and tunnel designers to environmental consultants and bridge engineers – played a key part in identifying the best route, planning and architecture of the new stations, including the monumental refurbishment of St. Pancras, and the creation of 152 bridges and other structures along the way. With our partners in RLE, we were responsible for project management, consents, procurement, construction, and commissioning.
Minimising impact on the landscape was key
Creating the 109km route from London to the Channel Tunnel was no simple proposition. Traversing the ‘Garden of England’, as Kent is known, the main priority was to minimise the impact on the environment through careful selection of the route, depressing it into the landscape wherever possible, or placing it within false cuttings to limit intrusion. 255 hectares of new woodland were created and 1.2 million trees and shrubs planted.
Laying the groundwork
Elsewhere on the route, the work would involve boring through many different types of geological and man-made conditions under the capital, 40 metres beneath the River Thames and below the placid North Downs.
On the 19km approach to London, twin 7.15m diameter tunnels pass below 3,000 properties
The tunnels incorporate fibre reinforced linings, rather than the classic reinforcement, which help to prevent catastrophic cracking and splitting in the event of a fire. The spoil from these tunnels was used to raise the ground level at Stratford to create a platform on which to build the regeneration development. Similarly, the spoil from the tunnels under the Thames was used to fill in the chalk quarries beside the route to turn unusable land into development land.
Building bridges from the ground up
The perfect coming together of form and function, the Medway Bridge is one of the longest concrete bridges built for the demands of high-speed rail and is designed to provide a delicate profile in harmony with its surroundings. Its V-shape columns provide maximum efficiency to resist high speed train braking, and an innovative low noise barrier is positioned close to the track to minimise the visual effect, while providing maximum noise reduction.
“The perfect coming together of form and function, the Medway Bridge is one of the longest concrete bridges built for the demands of high-speed rail”
HS1 has revolutionised high speed rail
High Speed 1 has not only transformed travel between the UK and Europe but also bought significant long-term benefits for the capital and the country. It was a crucial part of London's bid to host the 2012 Olympics and was a catalyst for the regeneration of Stratford in East London and Ebbsfleet in north Kent. With 10 million passengers crossing the Channel in 2016 alone, HS1 has truly revolutionised how we explore the world.