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HS2 stations face redesign for post Covid-19 world, chief warns

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High Speed 2 (HS2) chief executive Mark Thurston has admitted the megaproject’s stations may have to be redesigned to factor in people’s travel habits in a ’post-coronavirus world’

Thurston revealed a team has been set up within HS2 to observe the changing travel habits of the population over the next 18 months, while speaking during a Railway Industry Association (RIA) webinar on the impact of the coronavirus.

According to the AJ’s sister title New Civil Engineer, he said the initial station and train designs ’from a pre-coronavirus time’ may no longer be fit for purpose and may have to be changed during the detailed design phase to factor in things like social distancing.

’We’ve clearly got designs thus far that are based on pre-coronavirus norms. How we adjust those over timein fact if we need to adjust them, only time will tell,’  Thurston said. ‘The likelihood is, is that the world will never be the same again and we have to figure out what we want to leave behind.’

He added: ’We need to look at what people’s habits and preferences to travel will be in the future – we are already seeing people wearing masks and like many places in Asia I think we will see that become the norm in Europe and the UK.

’From a design point of view we need to look at what that means in terms of density of people as well, both on trains and in stations.

’That is a real challenge for us and we will not know the absolute answer until we observe people’s travel habits for the next 6, 12 or 18 months, and then we adjust our designs to those habits.

’It is a great time and opportunity for HS2 and the supply chain to come together and innovate.’

Thurston added that it is important to set the ball rolling on this thinking early as there may come a time when legislation forces the industry to implement new design standards.

Weston Williamson+Partners founding partner Rob Naybour also believes that Covid-19 will drive a change in the way architects and city planners design infrastructure and the built environment.

He believes that post-coronavirus the general public will now ’think more about whether or not […] our public transport networks, airports and roads are well-enough designed to ensure our safety and security in any future crisis’.

’Momentous events will prompt reflections and incite paradigm shifts as they bring about ‘new norms’. This is why now is a good the time to learn from the current crisis and take a longer view on how we can make our built environment more resilient and safer for citizens of today and tomorrow,’ Naybour told New Civil Engineer.

’As practitioners of the built environment, we, more than anyone, know the critical importance of resilient infrastructure in shaping the future of everyone.

‘Transport infrastructure is the economic and social lifeblood of modern cities; but at the same time, it can potentially pose a huge threat to public health if its design and planning are not futureproofed.’

He added: ’How will modern global cities manage a more resilient infrastructure that protects public safety and well-being through measures such as social distancing, public engagement, screening, testing and emergency response, post-Covid-19? […]  As specialists, how do we work together to find solutions for gaining the extra space?’

Last month Grimshaw secured planning approval for a new seven-platform High Speed 2 (HS2) station at Curzon Street, central Birmingham

Three separate applications for the station and surrounding area were given the green light via a digital planning committee after Birmingham City Council officers described the design by Grimshaw and WSP as ‘truly world class’.

The council’s report said: ‘The elegant and (deceptively) simple form of the main station building clearly reads as a railway station and harks back to traditional station architecture, delivering this in a confident and contemporary way.’

HS2 has already started procuring a construction contractor for the station, which is due to complete by 2026.

Bhamcurzonst sep19 view 06 internal entrance grimshaw january 2020

REVISED DESIGNS - JANUARY 2020: The proposed HS2 Curzon Street station in Birmingham

REVISED DESIGNS - JANUARY 2020: The proposed HS2 Curzon Street station in Birmingham

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Readers' comments (2)

  • I hope Mr Thurston realises that - given the way in which 'design change' is likely to result in yet more cost escalation - it's surely vitally important to consider how this change could be mitigated by the provision of rather more effective national virus control measures, given the reports that some third world countries have benefitted from their more elaborate measures borne out of necessity - while we have suffered (quite possibly severely) from the downgrading of some of our nationwide measures in the course of the last ten years of austerity.
    The horse before the cart, please.

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  • HS2 was a bad idea in the first place, driven by politicians who like big projects, to be seen to be throwing a bone to the disadvantaged areas (but not too disadvantaged, since the phases beyond Birmingham were always vulnerable). Now we'll have all the environmental damage - ancient woodlands, listed buildings etc. - without the benefit of dramatic architecture. How the hell do you design a more exacting station for less money (because of the inevitable financial crisis), for people who will be less willing than ever to get out of their socially-isolating cars? How much was spent on Birmingham New Street not all that long ago?? Do we really need a new high speed line? It's never too late to stop a bad scheme.

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