HS2 builds vital East West Rail bridge and will bring improvements in connections for Oxford and Cambridge
HS2 engineers used a giant 600 tonne crane to lift the bridge into position north of Aylesbury.
The bridge’s deck weighs the equivalent of 25 double-decker buses and will use East West Rail services connecting Oxford, Bicester, Bedford and Cambridge over a route that was mostly closed in the 1960s.
HS2 intends to support north-south rail travel and boost the economy while offering zero-carbon rail travel. The extensive project is largely underway and will provide over 29,000 jobs.
Both the earthworks and bridges over this short section where the two projects intersect will be built by HS2 contractors to provide the most efficient approach and reduce overall disruption to local residents.
Welcoming the milestone, Beth West, CEO of EWR said: “Local communities are now one step closer to reaping the benefits of a new, faster, more sustainable and affordable way, across communities from Oxford to Cambridge – and beyond country – to travel. East West Rail will connect thousands of people to jobs, families and friends with a reliable and safe service. The bridge installation over the Calvert Cut is a really important milestone in bringing EEA to life.
“The Government has recently re-committed East West Rail and construction of the Bicester to Bletchley railway is being completed as planned – both on time and on budget, with passenger services between Oxford and Bletchley due to start operating from 2025.”
Weighing a massive 315 tonnes near Calvert, the bridge was assembled on site before being hoisted into place by EKFB, HS2’s main construction contractor, made up of Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial Construction and Bam Nuttall.
The 35m long bridge is made of weatherproof steel and will naturally age over time, resulting in a dark brown hue that reflects the tone of the surrounding landscape. Lifting the bridge took two hours and involved a 600 tonne crawler crane.
Paul Marshall, Senior Project Manager of HS2 Ltd said: “HS2 will transform journeys between London, Birmingham and the major cities of the North, but it is vital that we also maintain and enable connections for communities on both sides of the line . So we worked closely with East West Rail to get this crucial bridge in place and I would like to thank everyone involved in bringing us to this important moment for both of our projects.”
Work on the 2.1 mile cut, which is one of the longest for the HS2 project, began in early 2022 and will allow the route south past the Buckinghamshire village of Calvert Green and Steeple Claydon and generally the route of the disused Great Central Railway also closed in the 1960s.
Approximately 685,000 cubic yards of material will be removed to create the Calvert Cutting, which will be approximately 9.7m deep and wide enough to provide additional track for local railroads in the future alongside the HS2 main line.
99% of material removed from the site will be reused for embankments, noise barriers and landscaping for the HS2 site and transported over a series of dedicated haul roads to reduce additional traffic on public roads. In the last 20 months EKFB has moved over 15 million cubic meters of material over 80km between the Chilterns and South Warwickshire.
In addition to the bridge, HS2 will also construct 650,000 cubic meters of earthworks, two smaller road bridges and a pedestrian bridge for the East West Rail in the Calvert area. East West Rail recently took over the first phase of earthworks.
EKFB Project Manager Dave Newcombe said: “The Calvert area is home to an important interface between two new rail networks that will carry HS2 under the East West Rail line. The construction of this crossing, carried out by EKFB, was clearly thought out with our local communities at the forefront of our plans. To reduce disruption to local residents, achieve maximum delivery efficiency and reduce costs, EKFB undertook the earthworks and construction of the new bridge for the East West Rail. Now we are pleased to be able to lift the rebar platform onto the bridge – a great milestone for our construction program.”