HS2 Independent Design Panel reports on progress

Proposals for the Chiltern tunnel south portal and chalk grassland on the western valley slopes.

Professor Sadie Morgan, chairman of HS2’s independent design panel, has released her latest report. In it, she states that the panel has consistently championed HS2’s potential to be more than a railway. “HS2 proposals should meet both the complex and challenging technical requirements for high-speed rail and deliver the significant economic, environmental and societal returns the nation expects’” she continues.

Prof Sadie Morgan.

“Capturing this potential requires HS2 design teams to take advantage of the project’s catalytic role, creating strategies to identify synergies with existing contexts and opportunities to deliver further public benefits – many of which will come to fruition long after the railway begins operating.

“A robust approach to engaging stakeholders and local communities is critical to realising this potential and ensuring HS2 can deliver more than the sum of its parts.”

In the body of her report, she then highlights the positive steps HS2 Ltd is taking towards achieving that goal.

She notes that an Environmental Sustainability Committee has recently been established to help strengthen HS2 ambition is to design and build the most sustainable high-speed railway in the world, while helping the UK to tackle climate change, improve air quality and reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

HS2’s Green Corridor prospectus and mapping tool was soft-launched in December 2020. It provides more detail about projects HS2 Ltd is delivering, and how communities can benefit further by getting involved. Prof Morgan feels that this initiative creates the potential for environmental projects funded by HS2 Ltd to be ‘joined up’ with local initiatives along the route, to become more than the sum of the parts.

At a recent meeting to discuss the design of the Chiltern tunnel south portal, the panel was the excited by the potential of the proposed reintroduction of calcareous grassland as part of the site restoration strategy. However, the panel stressed that its support is dependent on design quality being maintained through to construction.

The Euston Station Design Partnership, a collaboration between the public and private sectors working to unlock Euston, brings together a range of stakeholders, including HS2 Ltd, Network Rail, Transport for London and Camden Council, with the aim of establishing a shared vision and integrated designs. The government has decided to review the delivery arrangements for Euston, and the panel welcomed this change in the governance of plans for Euston, as a means of maximising public benefits, including the regeneration of the area, from the public’s investment.

Looking forward, Prof Morgan predicted that a key focus for the Design Panel’s work in the coming months will be Phase 2a (which achieved Royal Assent in February 2021).  She said that the panel had identified a number of lessons that could be learned from Phase One, including the importance of ensuring public value is placed at the heart of the project’s narrative and approach.

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