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29 Jan 2018

What lies beneath. Icebergs and the HS2.

Icebergs. Majestic, breathtaking works of nature. But what you see is only around 10 to 13 percent of the whole berg. The rest is hidden underwater, out of sight.

What’s that got to do with the HS2, the UK’s planned high-speed railway?

The new backbone of the rail network is certainly massive: it will link London, Birmingham, the East Midlands, Leeds and Manchester. And, like an iceberg, it will be some time in the making, too. Work on Phase 1 began in 2017, with planned first services delivered in 2026, and a further two phases should see customers climb aboard in 2027 and 2033.

But what the new high-speed ‘Y-network’ really shares with its icy counterpart is what lies beneath.  Much – or indeed most – of the preparatory work for the HS2 will take place underground, unseen. Gas pipes, electricity wires, telephone lines, water mains and more must all be diverted to make way for the safe construction of the much-anticipated rail link.

Iceberg

Energy distributors like National Grid, Cadent and Scotia Gas are already busy reconfiguring their gas and electricity networks. While directing gas and electricity away from pipes and wires scheduled for dismantling, they must seamlessly deliver energy around the UK as it is needed. (No pressure!) Perhaps least visible to the public eye, this part of the HS2 project is both crucial and challenging. Not only must these companies be flexible enough to work with an HS2 schedule that is not their own, they must also serve relationships on the ground with real people. Local communities, landowners and heritage sites are all affected. It’s a tough job keeping both the big guys and the little guys happy, and these companies are painstakingly walking that tightrope – while getting the job done on time and budget.

Come 2026, as you buy a ticket for the shiny new high-speed rail link, spare a thought for the unsung heroes that worked beneath to get you there, far below the media scrum and the ribbon cutting. The teams that worked underground to re-direct your gas and electricity. The teams that kept your kids safe, warm, and fed, while playing their part in changing the UK transport landscape for the better.

Because, what you see from the train carriage is just the tip of the iceberg.

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