The Challenge

SYSTRA was fundamental to the creation of the UK’s first high speed railway – HS1 – which since 2007 has been running the 109km between London and the Channel Tunnel, helping cut journey times to Paris to 2 hours and 20 minutes.

SYSTRA was a founder partner of the London & Continental Railway (LCR) concession that built the £5.2bn railway and was partner in the Rail Link Engineering (RLE) consortium that was entrusted the project design and engineering. Within the RLE consortium SYSTRA provided the experience of high speed railway.

We led the design and construction of engineering structures, track and catenary, signalling, control-command and power supply. We also had overall supervision of the construction phase, design and implementation of the test programme, acceptance and commissioning and the preparation of the maintenance programme.

SYSTRA’s work on bridges was particularly notable for designing structures that could handle the impact of high speed running, in particular their dynamic behaviour under the weight of trains travelling at 300km/h. Most significant was the 1.2km Medway Bridge – its 152.4m long central span was a world record for a railway bridge. SYSTRA worked with the contractor to finalise construction drawings after producing the static calculations for the whole structure, analysing rail/structure interactions and checking rail joints and their adjustment.

We also took responsibility for conceptual and construction design for the several kilometres of piled slab foundations that carry the railway over the Thames Marshes near Rainham in Essex.

A quarter of HS1’s route lies underground, including the 3.2km North Downs Tunnel, a 3km tunnel under the River Thames and 19km underground from Dagenham in East London to central London.

Around 250 SYSTRA engineers were involved in the project, integrated into RLE teams for project design and management, or within the building contractors working on track laying, catenary construction and signalling.

SYSTRA's Role

Signalling

  • break down of the line into block sections compatible with French TGV regional and freight train requirements
  • development of design and test tools required for production of computerised signalling parameters
  • independent validation and laboratory testing of the headway signalling
  • signalling studies for St Pancras Station

Power supply

  • production of the detailed railway design for track layout, track equipment, electromechanical installations, catenary, power supply and telecommunications

Track and catenary

  • logistics assistance to the contractor
  • inspection of works
  • fitting of test trains with instruments, analysis of track and catenary characteristics during speed tests

Environmental assessment

  • survey of electromagnetic disturbances generated by traction currents and production of remedial steps
  • measurement of running noise at high speed to feed design of noise barriers

Operations planning

  • timetable design, travelling ridership and conflict detection using SOFTIME software
  • production of performance criteria

Key dates

  • 1998: beginning of civil engineering works for 70km Section 1 from Channel Tunnel to outer London
  • 2001: beginning of main construction of 39km Section 2 to St Pancras
  • 2003: opening of Section 1
  • 2004: end of tunnel construction for Section 2 and start of track laying
  • 2007: opening of Section 2