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Midlands HS2 development to 'avoid HS1 mistakes'

High Speed 2 Toton Sidings Depot

One of the architects behind the new High Speed 2 (HS2) phase 2b Toton station has said it must not repeat the same mistakes as High Speed 1’s (HS1’s) Ebbsfleet station in Kent.

Ebbsfleet was supposed to be the government’s flagship new garden town with 15,000 new homes. But after nearly 15 years and despite an injection of £310M from the government, only around 500 homes have been built on the old quarry site. A report found house building had stalled and developers were unable to pay for the required additional infrastructure up front. The three local authorities responsible for the site were also unwilling to renegotiate the planning consent.

“We’ve looked at some of the lessons from HS1, particularly around Ashford and Ebbsfleet, to ensure they aren’t repeated,” said Christian Bocci a senior partner at architect Weston Williamson. “We’ve done a desktop study of what those stations don’t do very well and why certain things and development didn’t come about.”

Bocci told New Civil Engineer that the phasing of the new development surrounding the station was key to it’s success. Flexibility to accommodate future developments is also required.

He said the station meant it would have to be able to accommodate radical changes as it will have a 100 year design. But in the short term car parking for the station is needed.

“It’s likely that in the first phase it’ll be designed more like a parkway station. Doing that in a sympathetic way and allowing change and not spoiling the immediate surroundings are early questions we need to look at and answer.”

Currently the Toton area houses a rail freight yard and maintenance facility with no railway station or other public transport infrastructure connections. The proposed station will interchange with up to four Network Rail lines and four HS2 lines.

To avoid a “patchwork” of development springing up around the site, he said it would be important to encourage development to from the centre out rather than outward in.

Bocci added it would be important to avoid doing temporary early stage works which might not be in the best long term interests of the development. He said poor planning of temporary infrastructure could lead to a “whole spaghetti of chaos”  with new layers simply added on.

The proposed HS2 line will be built on a high level viaduct, close to the existing ground level lines. With an additional level above Bocci said the levels would have to be carefully planned to ensure they worked in a wider development context.

“We have to look at that and work out what the best level arrangement is to best future proof connections to east and west.”

Weston Williamson is working with consultant Aecom which won lot 2 of the phase 2b civils design and environmental services package in joint venture together with Capita and Ineco.

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