HS2 Curzon Street by McAuliffe
Shortlisted for Brownfield Awards Category 12 - Best Infrastructure Project
REDEVELOPMENT OF CURZON STREET STATION FOR HS2, BIRMINGHAM CITY CENTRE
A 7.6ha pocket of land in Birmingham City Centre, Curzon Street sits right at the heart of the UK’s High Speed rail network.
The original station was once at the centre of the industrial revolution. It welcomed the first train from London to Birmingham in 1838, and houses what is believed to be the world’s oldest railway roundhouse – designed by famed engineer, Robert Stephenson.
However, in recent decades, the area has lost prominence. The decline of Birmingham’s booming manufacturing sector has led to social and economic deterioration. In 2019, Birmingham City Council reported that the city was in the top 3% of deprived local authority areas nationally*.
Now, High Speed Two (HS2) – the biggest infrastructure project in Europe – has put Curzon Street at the heart of its main route, and back at heart of infrastructure innovation.
A landmark brownfield infrastructure project
A once-in-a-century opportunity, HS2 will make Birmingham a gateway to both the UK and European high-speed rail net works, linking it to major UK cities including, London, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Eventually, there will be nine trains per hour in each direction from the station – hugely increasing capacity on our railways.
HS2 will create fast links between Birmingham International, Manchester Airport, and Heathrow Airport, boosting connectivity and cutting pollution from internal flights. Meanwhile, journey times to the capital will be cut to just 49 minutes, which means Birmingham could be considered part of London’s Zone 4.
Midlands Connect is also using HS2 as springboard for its £3.5bn ‘Midlands Engine Rail’ improvement plan, creating space for 736 more passenger trains each day, and enhancing east-west connections from more than 60 stations.
All of this will attract greater investment and create job opportunities in the region.
Boosting the regional economy
HS2 is already boosting the region’s economy, with Deutsche Bank, Jacobs Engineering and the retail arm of HSBC relocating to the city. Goldman Sachs has opened a new Birmingham office, and PwC has significantly expanded its presence in the city.
The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA)’s HS2 Growth Strategy has the potential to add £14bn to the regional economy, and support 10,000 jobs (36,000 jobs should be created over 30 years). Almost 500 West Midlands businesses have already worked on HS2, over half of which are small and medium sized enterprises.
Freeing-up railway lines for freight
As new HS2 lines increase capacity, the UK’s existing rail way will be opened-up to freight. While the UK’s squeezed rail network is shared between freight and commuter trains, all going at different speeds, it cannot accommodate the movement of more goods by rail.
This should take hundreds of thousands of lorries off our roads each year (up to 76 per freight train), cutting carbon emissions, improving air quality, and making motorways safer.
The legacy of HS2’s work at Curzon Street will be felt for decades, with the project feeding into Birmingham City Council’s Big City Plan for the next 20 years of transformation.
Multidisciplinary team delivery
Over the past hundred years, the site had held multiple uses. Firstly, a railway roundhouse, cemetery, and public houses; later a factory and post office; and, finally, a car park.
Beneath these layers of history, contamination was encountered which mapped to the site’s historic land uses. This included lead from 18-19th century smelting, clinker and slag from 19-20th century metal working, and hydrocarbons from the 20th Century.
Preparing this brownfield site for Birmingham’s first completely new rail terminus in 100 years required a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach.
HS2 appointed a JV between Laing O’Rourke and J. Murphy & Sons Ltd (LM-JV) to conduct the enabling works for the northern section of the route, who were supported by the design team joint venture between WSP/Ramboll (DJV).
As remediation contractor on Curzon Street, McAuliffe worked closely with LM-JV and DJV to value-engineer the most cost-effective and technically-sound solution to issues in the ground. We used our own plant, remediation technologies, and directly employed people to retain tight control over delivery onsite. This included designing and commissioning a bespoke groundwater treatment plant.
As part of the HS2 project, gaining parliamentary approval for the High Speed Rail (London–West Midlands) Act 2017, many Undertakings and Assurances (U&As) had to be given to public bodies, organisations and individuals.
On the Curzon Street site, public bodies that required consultation and approvals included:
• Birmingham City Council for contaminated land, traffic mitigation, street works and community engagement
• Environment Agency for groundwater and soil quality, and waste regulation
• Canals and Rivers Trust for working next to the Digbeth Branch Canal
• Network Rail, as works were conducted adjacent to the existing London-Birmingham mainline
• CL:AIRE for administration of the Materials Management Plan under the Department of Waste Code of Practice (DoW CoP).
LM-JV praised the high standard of McAuliffe’s delivery onsite, awarding us ‘What Good Looks Like’ status.
They commented that ‘the McAuliffe team have done an unbelievable job on raising standards onsite… and should be really proud of what they’ve achieved. McAuliffe’s collaboration with other subcontractors has been inspirational, with them always willing to help maintain the high standards expected working on the HS2 project.’
Throughout the project, we implemented a strict health and safety plan onsite, with zero accidents or lost time incidents recorded.
The site’s rich history meant extensive and intricate archaeology works were required. We worked closely with archaeologists, helping to uncover a lost gem: what’s thought to be the world’s oldest roundhouse.
To support the preservation of the roundhouse for future generations, McAuliffe worked alongside archaeologists to protect it from damage during the build phase.
This involved placing and positioning over 500 precast concrete blocks and slabs, weighing up to 1000kg, around the structures. We cloud surveyed each block and slab, giving it full 3D positioning/xyz coordinates.
Providing real impact and long-term community benefits
Building a sustainable station
The new Curzon Street station will achieve the BREEAM Excellent standard, with zero carbon emissions from day-to day energy consumption.
Birmingham City Council described the station design, from engineering consultancy, WSP, as ‘striking a balance be tween the built and natural environment’ and as ‘truly world class.’
The hard materials (concrete, brick, stone) were segregated by screening, then crushed on-site to produce a recycled aggregate. This meant less material had to leave site, and minimal primary aggregates had to be imported for the remediation and enabling works.
Where the development required a reduction in ground levels (eg. station sub-basements), rather than take excess soils to landfill, the soil was moved, under an MMP, to other HS2 sites that required fill – such as noise bunds.
As part of a sustainable design, our team found ways to reduce carbon emissions from construction work by using modern fuel-efficient plant (eg. hybrid excavators) and reusing as much material onsite, or on other HS2 sites, as possible.
LM-JV awarded McAuliffe a ‘Golden Newt’ for commitment to sustainable working practices throughout the project.
An integrated transport hub
The station’s design incorporates the existing historic Old Curzon Street building, and links it to the new station’s eastern concourse at New Canal Street.
The designs improve access to different modes of transport, with the Midland Metro running alongside and underneath the station, pedestrian routes to local bus services, Sprint rapid transit bus services and other train services, and space for more than 250 bicycles.
This will transform public transport across an interconnect ed city – increasing capacity and reducing reliance on cars. Development at Curzon Street has provided a springboard for better public connectivity in eastern Birmingham – providing opportunities for retail and commercial development, and driving local investment and regeneration.
HS2 has been working with WMCA to carry out the utility diversions needed to future-proof the area for the city’s tram extension.
The West Midlands Metro Eastside extension will include four existing metro stops, connecting Curzon Street to the East of Birmingham City Centre, and Digbeth.
Regeneration around Curzon Street
Birmingham’s Curzon Street HS2 Masterplan outlines pro posals for 141ha of regeneration.
This covers the site that will house the HS2 Curzon Street station in Birmingham city centre, along with £900m in investment in the surrounding area. It envisages the crea tion of 36,000 new jobs, as well as 4,000 new homes, and 600,000m2 of commercial development.
The Birmingham Curzon HS2 Masterplan area covers a significant swathe of the City Centre.
A new high-quality pedestrian destination space will front Birmingham Curzon, and will be surrounded by new development, including a new pedestrian route through the Pavilions.
Creation of ‘Curzon Promenade’ and ‘Curzon Square’ will see an extension of Eastside City Park. The Promenade will set Birmingham Curzon station in a landscaped, green setting with cafes, shops and restaurants creating a vibrant edge to the station and the park.
Key developments include Birmingham Smithfield, located within a ten-minute walk of Birmingham Curzon. This is one of the UK’s largest regeneration opportunities – with a mix of uses including markets, culture, retail, leisure, business and new residential neighbourhoods.
Other key developments at Paradise Circus, Arena Central, and ongoing investment in the Colmore Business District, and at Snowhill, will cement the city’s professional services and business offer. This business heart of the City is within a ten-minute walk of the new station.
Transforming Birmingham Eastside
HS2’s redevelopment of Curzon Street station will transform ‘Birmingham Eastside’ into a key arrival destination. This is an area that includes some of the country’s most deprived constituencies, and it is in desperate need of re generation.
Already home to Aston University (9,500 students), Birmingham City University, and the 22-acre Birmingham Science Park Aston, the vision is for Eastside to become a quarter supporting the best in learning, technology, and science.
Birmingham City Council’s ‘Our Future City Plan’ speaks of how Curzon Street’s redevelopment is providing a ‘step change in connectivity for the city and region, unlocking major cultural, development and investment opportunities.’
New developments and place-making will create a vibrant 24/7 feel to the area, with visitor attractions, employment opportunities, leisure and city living accommodation.
Curzon Street Station will be the focal point, acting as one of the key accesses for the High Speed 2 terminus but as a feature in its own right – reflecting its historical importance and architectural quality.
While the station is being completed, HS2 is acting as a catalyst for development.
Multiple developments are in planning or already under construction, including the
£225m One East Side development – which will be Birmingham’s second tallest
building – Stone Yard (995 flats), Glasswater Locks, and tower scheme in the city’s
Leaving a skills legacy
HS2’s ambitions for skills, education and employment go far beyond the lifecycle of
the project itself.
The aim is to raise the standard of the entire industry, leaving it in a better place than
they found it. A huge part of which is the development of construction skills –
bridging the skills gap and improving employment prospects.
The project has seen the creation of the National College for Advanced Transport
and Infrastructure in Birmingham (part of the University of Birmingham group),
which is completely dedicated to the future of the rail industry.
The college will provide highly skilled technicians, project managers and apprentices
to lead the UK’s rail, transport, and infrastructure sectors. This will deliver much
needed capacity in the training market, as well as a specialist focus and coordinated
approach, to ensure key sectors have the right people, with the right skills.
Over 2,000 apprenticeships will be created as a result of HS2, and each subcontractor on the project is expected to provide valuable learning opportunities. With so many local businesses, like McAuliffe, working on HS2 sites, this is helping to create a long-term focus on training that will benefit local people and the local economy for years to come.
As well as 90% of our Curzon Street workforce being from the West Midlands, we joined forces the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA)’s Construction Gateway programme to help get unemployed individuals into paid, skilled employment.
The construction industry in the West Midlands needs 50,000 more trained staff by 2030. This demand has created a brilliant opportunity to train local people who can help meet the skills shortage – particularly those who have become stuck in a cycle of unemployment and homeless ness. The scheme plans to support over 2,200 local people into work.
Working with the homelessness charity, Crisis, the Construction Gateway programme ran a pilot scheme for trainee plant operators.
We hired one of their cohort, X, who had previously been homeless. By working with us on Curzon Street, X has been able to see how a site works and put his training to the test in a real-life environment.
He gained experience in a broad range of site duties, all under the supervision of a senior site team. This includes labouring tasks, such as fencing, and practicing his plant operation skills in our excavators.
Feedback from this will help inform the future development of the programme. We need to understand what ongoing support Construction Gateway employees need to turn their jobs into long-term careers.
At McAuliffe, we’ve trained multiple apprentices from local areas on the Curzon Street site. This includes local school-leaver, Lewis, who joined us as a civil engineering apprentice in 2019, and is now a key part of our technology and engineering team.
*Source: Index of Deprivation 2019, Birmingham City Council https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/downloads/file/2533/ index_of_deprivation_2019