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HS2 Curzon Street by McAuliffe​

Shortlisted for Brownfield Awards Category 9 - Best Urban Regeneration /

Brownfield Scheme (Sponsored by AECOM)


A 7.6ha pocket of land in Birmingham City Centre, Curzon Street sits in one of the most deprived local authorities in  the country.


Once at the centre of the Industrial Revolution – housing what’s believed to be the world’s oldest railway roundhouse,  and welcoming the first train from London to Birmingham  in 1838 – the site has witnessed both economic boom and  decline.  

In recent decades, the closure of the manufacturing industry led to job losses and general social and economic deterio ration. In 2019, Birmingham City Council reported that the  city was in the top 3% of deprived local authority areas, this  included having the second highest unemployment level of  any core city 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 progress and innovation.  All eyes are on the project to boost investment, skills, and  employment in the region, leaving a sustainable legacy that  will support the city’s regeneration for years to come.  

HS2 feeds into Birmingham City Council’s Our Future City  Plan for the next 20 years of transformation. With journey  times to London cut to just 49 minutes, Birmingham could  

be considered part of London’s Zone 4. HS2 will also cre ate fast links to other major UK cities – Manchester, Leeds,  Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow – with nine trains de parting Curzon Street each way per hour.  

This improved connectivity will bring significant numbers of  new jobs and visitors to the city. 

Cleaning up Curzon Street  

Over the past hundred years, Curzon Street has held multi ple uses. Firstly, a railway roundhouse, cemetery, and public  houses; later a factory and post office; and, finally, a car  park. 

Within these layers of history, contamination was encoun tered that mapped to historic land use.  

This included lead from 18-19th century smelting, clinker  and slag from 19-20th century metal working, and hydro carbons from the 20th Century.  

It took a multidisciplinary approach to prepare this brown field site for Birmingham’s first completely new rail termi nus in 100 years.  

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 the 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 deliv ery 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.

Curzon  Street sits in one of the most deprived local authorities in  the country.  

Once at the centre of the Industrial Revolution – housing  what’s believed to be the world’s oldest railway roundhouse,  and welcoming the first train from London to Birmingham  in 1838 – the site has witnessed both economic boom and  decline.  

On Curzon Street, public bodies we needed to consult with,  and achieve approvals from, 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 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.’  

We implemented a strict health and safety plan through out the project, 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 uncover what’s thought to be the  world’s oldest roundhouse, designed by 19th century engineer, Robert Stephenson.  

This piece of Birmingham’s history attracted a great deal of  attention from local people, featuring widely in the national  and regional press, and rail enthusiasts.  

To preserve the roundhouse for future generations, McAuliffe worked alongside archaeologists to create and engineer a solution 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.


Using cloud surveys, we digitally modelled every block  and slab – ensuring each structure was recorded with full  3D positioning/xyz coordinates. This means each piece is  clearly modelled and can be identified in the future. 

World-class sustainability  

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, created by engineering consultancy, WSP, as ‘striking a balance  between the built and natural environment’ and as ‘truly  world class.’  

As part of the sustainable design, WSP has employed measures such as rainwater harvesting, use of photovoltaics,  passive design, making designs leaner, and incorporating  reused, recycled, and renewable material where possible.  

The team has looked at ways to use or generate low carbon  energy, reduce embedded carbon in construction materials,  and reduce carbon emissions from construction work.  

With the Midland Metro running alongside and underneath the station, as well as new pedestrian routes and access to  local bus and train services, Curzon Street will help trans form public transport across an interconnected city. In creased rail capacity (including 736 more passenger trains  per day across the Midlands) will reduce reliance on cars.  

With capacity freed up on our current railways, hundreds of lorries will be taken off the road every day, as more freight  can move to rail. This will improve air quality and help reduce carbon emissions.  

This commitment to sustainability continues across all site works on Curzon Street, with the site showcasing electric  plant that will play an important part of the de-carbonisation  of the construction industry.  

As part of a sustainable design, our team found ways to  reduce carbon emissions from construction work by us ing 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.  

New jobs for local people 

Such a major project brings with a high number of job opportunities. The Curzon Street Masterplan envisages the creation of 36,000 new jobs, as well as 4,000 new homes, and  600,000m2 of commercial development.  

Over £900m will be spent on regenerating the area around  the station over the next 30 years.  

Trains will be housed a new Washwood Heath depot (2km  to the East of Curzon St.), creating long-term jobs for 500  people.  

Subcontractors are expected to help HS2 achieve its ambitious aims around skills, education, and employment, and its  desire to leave a sustainable legacy.  

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. 










A boost for regional businesses  

Almost 500 West Midlands businesses have already worked  on HS2. Over half of these are SMEs, and the number is  projected to grow as the project progresses. 

As well as actively encouraging SMEs to get involved in the  project (through events such as last year’s virtual Supply  Chain Summit, attended by 800 people, and hosted from McAuliffe’s Bilston head office), HS2 provides a great deal of  support for appointed businesses, helping them adopt better  processes that will support their future growth. 


McAuliffe is prime example of how well this works in practice. We have adopted and improved multiple processes to  improve our equality, diversity, and sustainability, as a direct result of working for HS2 and LM-JV on Curzon Street. This  has left our family business with better foundations on  which to pursue growth over coming years.  

Skills development - a sustainable 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.  

Over the course of the project, HS2 plans to create 2,000 apprenticeships, with each subcontractor expected to provide  valuable learning opportunities.  

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 – such as  rail – have the right people, with the right skills.

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. 

Attracting inward investment 

Thanks to HS2, £900m will be invested into regenerating the  area around the new Curzon Street station.  

Deutsche Bank, Jacobs Engineering, and the retail arm of  HSBC, have all relocated to the city centre. PwC has also significantly expanded its presence in the region, and Goldman  Sachs has opened a Birmingham office. 

Inward investment has created more jobs in the West  Midlands than any other region outside London. The West  Midlands Combined Authority’s HS2 Growth Strategy has the  potential to add £14bn to the regional economy and support  10,000 jobs.  

Before the station is 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  a tower scheme in the city’s Paradise area. 









Regeneration of eastern Birmingham 

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. 

Development at Curzon Street has provided a springboard  for better public

connectivity to the east of Birmingham –  providing opportunities for retail

and commercial development, and driving local investment and regeneration.  

HS2 has been working with WMCA to carry out 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


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’ for the next  20 years of

transformation, 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.’  

*Source: Index of Deprivation 2019, Birmingham City Council index_of_deprivation_2019 

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