HS2 to be powered by 100% zero carbon energy from first day of operations

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Britain’s new high-speed rail line, HS2, is set to be powered by zero carbon energy from day one of operation, announced Andrew Stephenson UK minister of state at the Department for Transport on Tuesday (January 11, 2022).

As a result, HS2 trains will offer a cleaner alternative to long distance car journeys and domestic flights, while supporting the UK Government’s 2050 target to tackle climate change.

This commitment will play a key part in HS2 Ltd’s aim to make the project net zero carbon from 2035, with targets of diesel-free construction sites and major reductions in carbon emissions from the steel and concrete used to build the railway.

HS2 minister Stephenson said, “We know that the climate crisis demands urgent action and these commitments from HS2 are vital steps toward achieving cleaner UK travel. HS2 is a once-in-a-lifetime investment, and we want to ensure the country’s biggest infrastructure project, supporting thousands of jobs and businesses, is underpinned by the government’s ambitions for a greener transport and construction future.”

HS2 will connect towns and cities in the South, Midlands, and North with a new high-speed rail line. The construction of the new railway is split into three phases: phase one will link London and the West Midlands via a 140-mile track due to open between 2029 and 2033; phase 2a will link the West Midlands and the North via Crewe and be built and opened at the same time as phase one; and phase 2b will complete the railway to Manchester, the East Midlands, and the North. The completion date of phase 2b is still to be confirmed.

In December 2021, Alstom and Hitachi Rail confirmed that the Hitachi-Alstom High Speed (HAH-S) 50/50 joint venture had signed contracts with HS2 to design, build, and maintain the next generation of very high speed trains for HS2 Phase 1 as part of the £1.97bn (US$2.6bn) contract, including an initial 12-year train maintenance contract.

Environmental goals

HS2’s Net Zero Carbon Plan, published on January 11, 2022, sets out how HS2 will achieve new carbon reduction milestones, support the decarbonization of the UK construction sector and reduce the carbon footprint of the program.

Major new targets include aiming for diesel-free construction sites by 2029, with the first one expected in 2022. Carbon emissions from steel and concrete will be reduced by 50% by 2030 compared with 2021 levels. To help achieve this, HS2 is collaborating with research organizations to accelerate innovation in low carbon technologies, such as alternative fuels and renewable energy.

Mark Thurston, HS2 CEO added, “The new targets announced today demonstrate the significant role HS2 will play in addressing the climate challenge, by providing a low carbon, long-distance transport solution and leading the construction sector to drive down carbon emissions.”

From 2035, HS2 Ltd will reduce carbon emissions as much as possible and make those that cannot be eliminated net zero by using carbon offsetting. This means HS2 will remove the same level of emissions that are produced as it builds, maintains, and operates HS2.

Other HS2 targets include:

  • Working with supply chain partners and industry peers to set ambitious new science-based targets in 2022 to tackle carbon emission ‘hotspots’ year-on-year as HS2 is built.
  • Cutting emissions from concrete and steel by 50% (tCO2e/t) by 2030 compared with 2021 levels.
  • Investing in innovation and forming partnerships to speed up ways to cut emissions in HS2’s supply chain.
  • Cutting emissions from sources HS2 owns or controls and indirect emissions from electricity production.
  • Offsetting residual carbon emissions that cannot be eliminated as HS2 is built, maintained, and operated from 2035. This includes looking at ways to capture and store carbon emissions using nature-based interventions such as planting new trees to absorb carbon dioxide.

HS2 is working with the supply chain and research organizations to pilot and implement low carbon materials, alternative fuels, renewable energy, and new construction methods through the HS2 Innovation program. There are currently 32 innovative projects across the program with projected savings of 1.6 million tons of carbon emissions.

To find out more about HS2’s plans to reduce carbon emissions, watch this video.