Work to prepare the ground for HS2’s new Network Integrated Control Centre (NICC) and train maintenance depot in Washwood Heath, North Birmingham, took a giant leap forward this week, as the team passed a huge earthworks milestone.

Balfour Beatty VINCI (BBV), HS2’s construction partner for the region, led the operation to excavate over one million cubic metres of earth at the Washwood Heath site. As part of a cut and fill exercise, the recycled material has been cleaned and reused to level the ground, paving the way for detailed design and construction of the new maintenance depot and control centre to start next year.

The NICC, effectively the ‘nerve centre’ for the HS2 network, will accommodate around one hundred staff that will control the real time operation of the railway. The site also includes a stabling yard, with 14 tracks, a maintenance building for the preparation of HS2’s fleet of trains, and facilities for staff who will drive and service the trains. Once operational, the site is expected to support around 550 jobs.

In preparation for the works, BBV also diverted Wash Brook, which ran north – south through the site. The brook, which connects to the River Tame, is just one of the environmental design features planned for the site to provide local wildlife habitats and enhance its aesthetic appeal.

The Washwood Heath site has a long-standing rail history, dating back to the early 1900s, when it was first used as a railway sidings and marshalling yard. Its heavy industrial use over the last century meant the ground was highly contaminated, and specialist contractors, including Coventry-based Duo Group, have led the intense programme of work to clean up the site ready for its new beginnings at the heart of the new high-speed network.

BBV’s recycle and reuse approach to the ground remediation and earthworks programme eliminated the need to import and export aggregate materials. Approximately 27,200 road wagons or 54,400 vehicle movements are estimated to have been avoided to date, minimising the impact of HS2’s work on local communities.

Alvin Pedzai, HS2 Project Manager responsible for main works civils delivery at Washwood Heath commented:

“We’re absolutely delighted with the progress made on site. The earthworks and ground remediation programme for Washwood Heath is nearing completion, and we’re on track to handover to HS2’s Rail Systems team, who will lead the next stage in this exciting programme of work to bring this once-derelict site back to life.”

Tim Cook, Project Manager at Balfour Beatty VINCI, added:

“Excavating one million cubic tonnes of earth is a great achievement, demonstrating the progress we’re making at Washwood Heath. Every effort has been made to recycle and reuse the material on this brownfield site, allowing us to repurpose part of Birmingham’s celebrated industrial history. This more efficient approach is good news for both the environment and nearby communities, drastically reducing the number of lorry movements on local roads.”

BBV’s work at the 65-hectare Washwood Heath site – equivalent to the size of 100 football pitches – will now focus on completion of the west tunnel portal in readiness for two tunnel boring machines breaking through, as they complete their 3.5 mile journey linking Warwickshire and Birmingham.