Category Archives: High Speed Rail

General Electric to buy Alstom’s energy business for $17bn

The Board of French engineering company, Alstom has given the green light to US energy giant General Electric to purchase its energy business at a price of $17bn. In order to protect the country’s interests and facilitate the deal, the French government will purchase a 20% stake in Alstom from its main shareholder, Bouygues.

Siemens and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries also submitted acquisition proposals, but General Electric’s proposal won unanimous approval from Alstom directors. General Electric will now acquire Alstom’s power grid business, renewable operations, and nuclear steam turbines to form three joint ventures. In doing so, it hopes to open up its operations in China and Africa.

Conversely, General Electric (GE) is to sell its railway signal business to Alstom, who are the manufacturers of France’s TGV high speed trains. The deal is expected to close in 2015.

General Electric’s Chairman and CEO, Jeff Immelt said of the deal: “We will now move to the next phase of the Alstom alliance. We look forward to working with the Alstom team to make a globally competitive power and grid enterprise. We also look forward to working with the French government, employees and shareholders of Alstom. As we have said, this is good for France, GE and Alstom.”

According to a Reuters report, the two companies already have history. In Alstom’s home town of Belfort, 2,500 of its employees have worked for more than a decade ‘building electrical turbines just a few dozen metres away from a GE plant, whose workers they meet each day at lunchtime in a shared canteen’.

The article continues: “GE’s history in Belfort stretches back even further, to 1928, when one of its subsidiaries, Thomson-Houston, merged with the Socieate Alsacienne de Construction Mecanique to form Alssthom, then spelled with an ‘h’”.

Written by Gail Taylor

Aesthetic Overhead Line Structures – Finalists Announced

The successful finalists in the international design competition for new, aesthetically pleasing designs for the gantry and cantilever structures on the UK rail network have now been selected.

The competition launched by the rail industry’s FutureRailway, in conjunction with HS2 Ltd and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in December 2013 concluded with two intense days of judging this week.

An event was held last night (7th May) in the Great Hall at the National Railway Museum and the finalists announced as:

Bystrup Architecture, Design and Engineering, Denmark for their HST design (image below)

Bystrup Architecture, Design & Engineering_Finalist

COBE, Denmark for their Tomahawk design (image below)


Moxon Architects with Mott MacDonald for the Integrated OLS design (image below)

Moxon Architects with Mott MacDonald_Finalist


IDOM UK Alan Baxter & Associates and SEMI were also selected as Highly Commended


David Clarke, Director of FutureRailway commented:  “It has been a fascinating and enjoyable process and it was very clear to the panel that every shortlisted team had put a huge amount of hard work and dedication into their designs.  We have selected three worthy finalists and I look forward to seeing each design developed further during the coming months.”

Mark Howard, HS2 Ltd Head of Power and Traction said: “I am very impressed by the high standard of the designs in this competition.  All those shortlisted have really understood the technical practicalities whilst coming up with eye-catching structures.  HS2 will be innovative and reflect the very best in 21st century design.  I look forward to developing these ideas further and perhaps one day seeing them alongside the UK’s much needed high speed rail network.”

The exhibition of the ten shortlisted designs in the Great Hall at the National Railway Museum features scale models of each design and will end on 12 May.  It has already generated a great deal of interest amongst the general public with over 600 comments received on the different design approaches.

The finalists will now use the development funding to undertake detailed technical development of their design and consider the route to market.

Summary of the shortlisted designs:

The High Speed T – ‘HST’, Bystrup Architecture, Design and Engineering

The High Speed T Mast reduces the overhead rail line to two elements; a triangular cable network carrying the power, and the aesthetic T-shaped mast which supports twin systems serving adjacent tracks.

High speed twin rail lines require less land with a single line of T masts between tracks, than with traditional masts either side. There are therefore no masts forming an obtrusive barrier between the track edge and its surroundings.

Tomahawk – a design family, COBE

Tomahawk is a family of overhead line structures that minimizes the visual impact of the entire line. This is achieved by reducing the overall height, reducing the number of structural elements and by using contemporary materials and manufacturing techniques.

By Keeping It Simple and Straightforward (KISS), the end product is buildable and well suited for its purpose. The simple design will also work visually when repeated hundreds of times throughout the landscape.

Integrated OLS, Moxon Architects with Mott MacDonald

The form of these masts is simple – slender and tapering, the design reduces the visual impact in the landscape.  The Integrated OLS scheme simplifies the components of the power line support equipment, replacing insulating pots with built-in insulating properties through the use of a densified laminated wood.

The full shortlist in alphabetical order are:

  • Bystrup Architecture, Design and Engineering, Denmark (with two designs shortlisted)
  • COBE, Denmark
  • Grimshaw
  • Gorton, Paul, Scheuvens + ARUP
  • IDOM UK Ltd with Alan Baxter & Associates and SEMI
  • Lariko/Urbanski
  • Moxon Architects with Mott MacDonald
  • PWA
  • Ramboll UK


The National Railway Museum, York is open seven days a week from 10am – 6pm.  Admission is free.  For further details please visit

Birmingham HS2 redevelopment plan unveiled

Curzon_HS2_Masterplan copy

Birmingham City Council has unveiled the Birmingham Curzon HS2 Masterplan, which will see 141 hectares of the city centre transformed.

The ambitious plans form one of the biggest urban regeneration schemes in Britain, and by far the biggest redevelopment so far announced on the back of HS2.

The new developments will be focused around the brand new city centre station – Birmingham Curzon – where HS2 terminates on its 49 minute journey from London. The station will place the city at the heart of the new national high speed network.

Plans include the creation of over 14,000 jobs, 600,000 sq metres of new employment floorspace and 2,000 new homes. The regeneration will boost the city’s economy by £1.3bn each year.

The plans are a critical part of the city’s efforts to support its burgeoning creative, learning and research sectors and the booming professional and financial services industry.

City leaders in Birmingham today hailed the potential of HS2 as a catalyst for urban regeneration and called on political leaders to push ahead with the rail scheme and help unlock growth across the country.

The Curzon HS2 Masterplan is the latest in a series of major projects that are remaking Birmingham’s city centre. The £600 million transformation of New Street Station will be completed next year along with a £128 million Midland Metro extension linking the station with the existing tram line at Snow Hill.

Ambitious plans have also been tabled for Paradise Circus in the heart of the city including a second Metro tram extension continuing on from New Street Station to Centenary Square.

Eastside City Park was the first new city centre park in Birmingham for more than 130 years when it opened right next to Curzon Street in December 2012, and the critically acclaimed Library of Birmingham opened last year as a centre of learning and a major tourist attraction.

Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham Council said: “Today we set out our vision for how Birmingham can use HS2 as a catalyst to transform a huge part of our city, bringing with it jobs and prosperity for people in the West Midlands.

“We’re not waiting around for HS2 to get built before we get started. We’re announcing our plans today, and we’re ready to start building as soon as the new railway gets the green light.

“Up and down the length of HS2 there is huge potential for major regeneration and development and we must press forward with this project without delay.”

Lord Deighton, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury and Chair of the HS2 Growth Taskforce said: “Birmingham is going the right way about realising the benefits of HS2 by developing ambitious plans to kick-start development.

“Their vision for the Curzon HS2 Masterplan demonstrates the transformational value of HS2, not just for rail passengers but for the communities that the railway will serve.

“The legacy of our new north-south railway will be not only a railway fit for the future, with better connections to cities in the north, but also regeneration and economic growth for Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, London and everywhere in between.”

Birmingham Curzon station will be Birmingham’s HS2 hub, linking phase one of the project, from London to Birmingham, and phase two from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester.

HS2 will boost the West Midlands economy by £4.1 billion each year and create more than 51,000 new jobs by providing extra capacity and better connections to London and the north.

The new Birmingham Curzon station will be the first new station to be built in Birmingham for over 100 years and when complete will be the biggest building in the city.

The station would be served by Metro trams on a new route branching off  the extension currently being built through the city centre.


Waheed Nazir, Director for Planning and Regeneration at Birmingham City Council said: “The Masterplan sets out the City Council’s aspirations for the new HS2 terminus station and the huge regeneration potential that surrounds it. The potential of HS2 can only be realised if we build a world class station that seamlessly connects people to the rest of the City Centre.

“The masterplan is part of Birmingham’s ambitious growth agenda that will see the city’s economy grow and prosper. HS2 will be an important catalyst for this ongoing development and regeneration activity.”

Lucan Gray, Owner at Fazeley Studios & the Custard Factory, a hub for creative businesses in Digbeth, an area that could be impacted by the proposed masterplan, said: “With MIPIM just around the corner, the timely consultation of the Masterplan is going to be of enormous significance for property developers.

“By getting ahead of the curve and announcing its plans now, Birmingham is going the right way about realising the potential of HS2. Combined with schemes like the New Street regeneration and Paradise Circus, Birmingham property is looking really exciting right now.”

The original Curzon Street station was one of oldest in the UK, and the first ever London to Birmingham service arrived there in September 1838.

© Jonathan Wilcox

The historic Grade I listed entrance of the old Curzon Street station will be revived as part of the Masterplan.

Today sees the beginning of an eight week consultation on the Curzon HS2 Masterplan. Construction is set to start on the HS2 line and stations in 2017 with the first passenger services arriving in Birmingham in 2026.

Ryder Architecture’s Stoke on Trent HS2 station


Ryder Architecture worked with Stoke on Trent City Council to develop designs for a proposed iconic city centre high speed rail station which have been now been submitted to HS2 and the government.

HS2 for Stoke on Trent aims to deliver a massive stimulus to the local economy creating thousands of new jobs; 55 minute journey times from Stoke to central London; the London to Manchester link seven years early (by 2026); journey times to Manchester and Liverpool circa 25 minutes faster than original HS2 plan; billions in reduced cost to the tax payer compared with other options and reduced environmental impact on Staffordshire countryside.

Stoke on Trent International HS2 station has the potential to change the urban landscape of the city, enhancing current urban strategies, supercharging a new vision for the city. Council Leader, Mohammed Pervez, said “High speed rail should be all about the maximum boost to the UK economy, taking the brakes off growth.  We have developed a compelling case that is financially and technically feasible.  It will deliver new dynamism to the industrial heart of the country, re-balancing the national economy.  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for UK Plc.”

Ryder’s vision is for the station to create a new landmark to be located in the Etruria Valley, maximising the potential for economic regeneration, transforming Etruria Valley to the north, connecting the University Quarter to business and enterprise, and creating a new urban area around the station to anchor the extension of the city centre and central business district of Hanley.

The proposal is for a multi modal transport hub with international and domestic HS2 platforms, direct connections to local and regional train services, facilities for secure airport baggage check in, integrated smart parking solutions and bus interchange.

A major new public space will lead to the arrival and departure concourse providing ease of wayfinding and passenger orientation.  Lifts and escalators lead to generous retail and catering opportunities on multiple levels and the international check in lounge and border control facilities beneath the dramatic station roofline. The expressive form and dramatic scale of its translucent roof are inspired by the new age of travel that HS2 represents. The roof will provide cover to the full length of the platform environment, the translucent material allowing excellent levels of natural daylight, minimising heat gain and incorporating natural ventilation to reduce energy use.


Excellent vehicular access is provided off the primary A500.  New loop roads will tie in with existing intersections to facilitate efficient, safe and convenient access and egress.  The integrated parking pods provide secure car storage with direct access from the parking areas to the public concourses and platform environment optimising transfer times between car and train.  The parking pods are important expressive elements that enjoy high visibility from the adjacent A500.  The pods will be veiled in a ceramic filigree that is a contemporary expression of the excellence of the traditional craft of the city.

Ryder Architecture will be joining Stoke on Trent City Council at MIPIM in March to discuss the proposals.

World Infrastructure News is at MIPIM! On Wednesday 12 March, we are chairing: Cities on the move: the next step in multimodal transport in the Red Room on Level 3.


Denis Fuentès, Director, Urban and Regional Mobility Unit, SAFEGE

Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, The Mayor of Warsaw, The City of Warsaw

Chwen-Jinq Chen, Political Deputy Minister, Ministry of Transportation and Communications


Copenhagen Airport plans major expansion


Copenhagen Airport is currently the busiest airport in Scandinavia, serving over 24 million passengers last year. And now the owners are looking to expand.

In a plan that looks roughly 25 years into the future, CPH which which manages both of  Copenhagen’s Airports hopes to nearly double capacity from 24 to 40 million passengers to attract greater numbers of tourists and to attract new business and investment.

Unlike other European airports, CPH is not planning a new terminal but instead favouring a phased plan to expand the existing one. According to Copenhagen Airport CEO Thomas Woldbye, “…building new, separate terminals is not an optimal solution. A phased expansion offers several advantages. Eighteen months of analysis work has shown us that, with this approach, we can avoid building excess capacity, secondly, it allows us to keep the airport’s compact layout ‘under one roof’, which is important and thirdly, a phased expansion allows us to adjust our process to match the increase in traffic and lets us make use of the latest technology,”

Along with expansion of the terminal, the plans also incorporate bigger commercial space comprising a new hotel with conference facilities, bigger retail space and better high speed connections to Oslo and Hamburg. A new station will reflect the importance of quick connectivity to grow passenger numbers and the potential for the airport to continue its place as a key transport hub for Northern Europe. Currently there are rail links from Terminal 3 to Copenhagen’s Nørreport Station and regional Oresundtrain services to Copenhagen Central Station.

All this ambition also means job creation. According to international surveys, the additional 16 million passengers will generate an additional 16,000 jobs at the airport, bringing the total number of jobs in the airport area to more than 40,000. There will be more work to do for a number of support functions as well, corresponding to about 8,000 jobs outside the airport area bringing the total to 24,000.

This growth in employment and tourism can only occur with better business investment and collaboration between municipalities, organisations and businesses from both Denmark & Sweden as well as beyond. As Thomas Woldbye elaborates, “We have presented a vision for the expansion of Copenhagen Airport, and we can and must build the capacity required to handle 40 million passengers a year. But our plan can only be realised if all the relevant parties in the region collaborate. We saw it in Barcelona: since hosting the Olympic Games in 1992, the city has turned into a tourist destination at the top of the European league, and we are currently seeing how the whole region around Istanbul is booming because the airport and airlines are collaborating with the entire region to generate economic growth. If everyone pulls together, we can also lay the foundation for 40 million travellers in this region over the next two to three decades.”

Jim Davis

China announces £60bn spend in 2014 on High Speed Rail


As Sir David Higgins takes over as Chairman of Britain’s controversial £50bn HS2 project, China has announced a £60bn spend in 2014 in a move that will effectively double its high speed rail network. The Chinese Government have a number of aspirations riding on High Speed Rail; most notably the drive, as it claims, to modernise, urbanise and pull the Chinese people out of poverty. But also improving links with neighbours such as the line to Dandong on the North Korean border currently in construction and set to open next year, or seeking government cooperation and partnerships to project a new high speed line into Thailand.

Between 2007 to 2012, the cumulative ridership of high-speed trains in China was more than 1.5bn. The total length of high-speed rail networks currently in operation is about 10,000km, while another 12,000km are under construction.  The network is almost double the combined length of Europe and Japan’s railway networks.

Constructing such a massive High Speed network in such a short timespan has not been without problems or even tragedy; In 2011 a crash claimed 40 lives in east China. Since then, a series of corruption scandals have brought about the arrest of the former railways minister, Liu Zhijun, on charges of corruption and abuse of power.

However, it is expected that by the end of 2020 the combined networks of both inter-city and high-speed railways in China will cover more than 50,000km, serving the capital cities of every province and cities with populations over 500,000.

Among its outstanding high-speed railways is the Beijing-Shanghai route with a total distance of 1,318km. It is the world’s longest high-speed rail line constructed in a single phase. The line started commercial operation in June 2011.

Jim Davis

Japan hopes to boost economy with super-fast SCMaglev ‘levitating’ train

japan maglev train

Japan’s JR Central rail operator has recently unveiled its SCMaglev high-speed hover-train prototype, eventually destined to run from Tokyo to Osaka via Nagoya in a journey time of just 67 minutes. The company’s current high-speed Shinkansen service takes approximately 2 hours 30 minutes between the two cities.

A massive challenge for civil engineers will lie in the topography of the planned route. In order to be straight enough to allow top speeds of up to 500kph (311mph) when open to the public, the track will be required to run through approximately 250km of tunnels – many of them through the Japanese Alps – representing about 86% of the route.

In a nutshell, this is how the train uses “superconducting magnetic levitation”. According to a report in the UK’s Financial Times newspaper, it is “propelled by powerful supercooled magnets along a walled track known as a ‘guideway’. The train runs on rubber wheels until it reaches 100kph, at which point it floats to 10cm above the ground. The lack of friction allows it to reach its record-breaking speeds”. It is also said to be extremely difficult to derail.

On the subject of speed, a JR Central prototype has so far attained a blistering 580kph (360mph) in tests last September, the world record for a train. However, recognition for the world’s first fully operational Maglev train goes to China. Since 2004, the Shanghai Transrapid service has linked Shanghai Pudong International Airport and central Pudong. Its top speed is a comparatively sedate 431kph (268mph).

Although the first section of the proposed new tracks between Tokyo and Nagoya won’t be operational until 2027, not reaching Osaka until 2045, it is hoped that the Maglev will showcase Japan’s advanced engineering capabilities to the world in the nation’s run-up to the 2020 Olympics.

JR Central also hopes to interest other countries, such as the USA, in buying its Maglev train technology to help fund the project. The estimated cost currently stands at some Y9bn ($89bn), which JR Central will bear in its entirety.

Gail Taylor

Smarter Mobility: an evening of debate hosted by Intelligence Squared

Smarter Mobility_Web Res-191

This debate, held at The Royal Institute of Great Britain and supported by Shell, aimed address the question of delivering smarter mobility options in ever-increasingly congested megacities, such as Los Angeles and Sao Paulo. Leading the line were five of the field’s most innovative thinkers, brought together in an effort to sketch out the future of smart mobility, and was chaired by Matthew Taylor, the Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).


Professor Paul Newman
A Professor of Engineering and leader of the Mobile Robotics Group at the University of Oxford, Professor Newman is an expert in driverless vehicle technology. He argued that, while the growth of driverless technology was inevitable, it will not occur overnight. Rather, the proliferation of autonomous vehicles will be a gradual progression. Key to this, Professor Newman stated, was the ability of vehicles to interpret their surroundings and learn without the help of external inputs such as GPS.

Robin Chase
Founder and CEO of Buzzcar, as well as co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar, Robin is a pioneer in the car-sharing marketplace. Focusing on the potential benefits of a city fully embracing car-sharing schemes, Robin observed that the development of car-sharing schemes would reduce the number of vehicles on the road, highlighting the vast majority of time personally owned cars spend parked and unused. This development also spells the proposition of the most functional, appropriate vehicles being made available to users at opportune times.

Jerry Saunders
Jerry is the CEO of Skytran, a company developing a rapid transit system that utilises maglev technology. Skytran, a NASA Space Act Company, has initially been developing this system for Tel Aviv. Skytran’s transportation pods run along tracks fitted above street level, and can travel at speeds of 100-200 kmph. Skytran will be capable of taking up to 11,500 passengers per hour on each guideline, with each pod using only one third of the energy of a hybrid car. When questioned on the greatest challenge facing this ambitious project, Jerry responded that it was not technological or developmental, but rather obstacles created by governments unable to fully understand and categorise this transportation alternative.

Ben Hamilton-Baillie
Ben is an urban designer and one of the leading proponents of the idea of ‘shared space’, a proposed solution to city congestion that involves the removal of street furniture and traffic controls. This low-tech and cheap congestion solution will increase road safety and vehicle flow by increasing user awareness of fellow users sharing the space around them, Ben argued.

David Rowan
The final speaker, David Rowan, editor of the UK edition of WIRED, attempted to tie together the various solutions proposed today. Key to David’s final messsage was the requirement of societies to reduce their fixation on personal ownership and embrace the idea of collective information, resources and ownership in the pursuit of smarter mobility.


The event concluded with a Q&A during which concerns raised by the audience focused on issues such as the transportation of goods, and what driverless cars and car-sharing schemes meant for those holding a passion for vehicles themselves. The first concern was met with a general consensus that there remains a considerable way to go in the development of goods transportation systems, especially within cities themselves. The second issue was handled by Professor Newman, who, reiterating an earlier point, argued that technology exists to provide its users with choices, and that an individual wishing to continue driving their own car will be free to do so.

Alexander Malden

Construction bosses take up George Osborne’s challenge on HS2


After a mounting tide of negative press and dire warnings of spiralling costs, UK Chancellor George Osborne has robustly defended the HS2 high speed rail project on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. The Chancellor told Marr that “we have set the budget for £42bn for the construction costs. That includes, by the way, a big contingency [£14bn]. As we demonstrated with the Olympic Games, we can deliver these big projects actually sometimes under budget”.

And it seems the UK construction industry agrees with him according to a recent letter to the Telegraph from the heads of the Association for Consulting and Engineering, Arup Group, Atkins UK, Balfour Beatty, Kier Group, Laing O’Rourke, Mott MacDonald Group, and Skanska UK.

In it they state, “We gladly accept the challenge of completing Phase One of HS2 on schedule – and for less than the Government’s target of £17.16 billion. We applaud the Government’s support for investment in infrastructure and in particular HS2, which addresses a looming capacity crunch on rail and road networks.”

The letter went on to suggest that HS2 will inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers and will create jobs and support economic growth. In response to claims that the whole project is set to go massively over budget, the industry heads said, “Funding secured for HS2 rightly includes a contingency – a responsible way to plan a project on this scale. Yet artificially inflated figures circulated by opponents recently in no way represent the outcome we expect.”

Infrastructure could be in the front line – report warns

Once again, warnings of attacks on infrastructure have been published, highlighting the vulnerability of vital services in transport and power.

According to Bild, the German mass circulation daily, Al-Qaeda is plotting attacks on Europe’s high-speed rail network. The publication reports that the information came from the National Security Agency (NSA) in the US.

The paper reported that, earlier this month, the NSA listened in on a conference call between Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and more than 20 of his operatives in which attacks on Europe’s rail network was a “central topic”.

Bild said that the extremist group could “plant explosives on trains and tunnels or sabotage tracks and electrical cabling”.  Authorities in Germany have responded by deploying plain clothes police officers at key stations and on main routes.

Since intercepting the conversation, the Americans and several of its allies have shut embassies across the Muslim world, fearful of a major attack.

The Local, a publication reporting “Germany’s news in English”, says it contacted Deutsche Bahn but “a spokeswoman declined to comment beyond stating that they work closely with the security services”. Meanwhile, Germany’s interior ministry said that the security situation regarding terrorist threats had “not changed”.