Why does the UK need HS2? “The Three Cs” – Mark Thurston


Capacity, Connectivity and Carbon make the case for HS2, says the project’s CEO. 

Asked why the UK needs HS2, Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2 Ltd, has set out the three C’s behind the case for the high speed railway at the Global Infrastructure Conference. He then stressed that transparency was crucial to success.

“Capacity – there is a need for green transport capacity in the UK and we cannot sweat our existing network any further.

“Connectivity – HS2 is very much a project for the Midlands and north of the country, connecting major cities – which is very important to driving investment.

“Carbon – Train travel continues to outperform other forms of transport in terms of carbon output. Car journeys and air travel generate 7x and 17x more carbon per journey than rail.”

Delivering such a large project – the first such large-scale railway project in the UK for over 100 years – was a big logistical and political challenge, he said. So he talked about how important it was to get the approach right.

“We have this phased approach which enables us to build up capacity and set ourselves up for success… And we benefit from a huge amount of learning from major projects like London2012, Crossrail – a railway under London – in how we manage this.”

In regards to the politics, he stressed that transparency was vital.

“A project of this scale cannot avoid the political aspect. We go through 72 parliamentary constituencies, and we transcend electoral cycles and have already seen four Prime Ministers”.

“I report to the Public Accounts Committee once a year and the Secretary of State reports to Parliament every six months, which adds to our accountability throughout”.

“We also work hard on transparency to reflect the needs of local communities so that this is not just something ‘done to’ them”.

Carbon really matters

In the UK, transport is one of the biggest contributors to carbon and HS2 is intended as part of a green transport system. So some of its innovations are particularly important.  

Mark Thurston explained “Our station interchange is BREAM rated and will be in the top 1% of transport interchanges for low carbon, and our Birmingham station will be zero emission. We use solar panels, heat pumps and EV charging for vehicles at stations.”

He also addressed the issue of carbon in construction – crucial to making transport truly low-carbon – with an example of good practice on HS2.

“Even the use of electric forklift trucks has been embedded. That might sound mundane but every one of these vehicles saves 400 litres of fuel every week.”