HS2 report identifies earthworks savings of £300m a year for UK infrastructure sector 

HS2 report identifies earthworks savings of £300m a year for UK infrastructure sector 

A new study has found that the UK’s infrastructure sector could save an enormous £300 million a year by changing how it manages earthworks projects.


The report comes from HS2, in conjunction with the Infrastructure Industry Innovation Partnership (i3P) and Expedition Engineering. A total of 28 organisations were involved in the research, including some of the firms tackling major infrastructure projects in the UK right now. For example, HS2, National Highways, EDF, the Northern Ireland Department of Infrastructure and the Environment Agency.


Within the report, researchers identified 26 key opportunities where savings could be made in earthworks projects, which could potentially unlock savings of £3 billion over just a decade.


These include:

  • Making use of state-of-the-art geotechnical technologies and real time performance indicators to reduce programme delays and improve the quality of earthworks projects.
  • Embracing innovative digital technology to improve the communication, control and accuracy of earthworks processes.
  • Bringing forward the use of Connected and Autonomous Plant (CAP) to significantly improve the safety, productivity and accuracy of earthworks.
  • Supporting the development of bespoke procedures for the engineering and processing of certain types of site-won materials, in order to reduce the amount of exported materials from site.
  • Encouraging the use of alternative plant fuels, including hydrogen, electric and hybrid technologies, to improve air quality and reduce CO2 emissions. This also has the additional benefit of potentially extending operational working hours, so that projects can be completed more quickly.


Many of the savings identified in the report came from achievements already made by the HS2 project, which is one of the largest and most ambitious infrastructure challenges taking place in the UK at present.


HS2 Ltd has reportedly saved around 12% on earthworks during the procurement stage of Phase 2, and has identified a further 27% of savings if it adopts digital engineering techniques during ongoing earthworks.


Commenting on the report’s conclusions, especially in relation to the progress of HS2 works so far, Will Reddaway from i3P said:


“HS2 is leaving a positive legacy which will transform the way we carry out both large-scale engineering projects, and smaller construction and infrastructure projects in the future. Realising the opportunities presented in this study has the potential to put Britain at the forefront of Earthworks for global mega projects, and will deliver highly-prized export opportunities for British infrastructure expertise.”


The report also lays out a number of other recommendations, such as measures to tackle the growing skills shortage within the industry. For example, the creation of a Skills Development Programme, which help to equip people with the skills required to support innovations within the sector. This could be essential if the potential savings of £300 million a year are to be realised.


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