Willesden cranes removed for new HS2 logistics hub

Three huge disused yellow container cranes in Willesden have been successfully removed to make way for a new HS2 logistics hub to support the construction of the new high-speed line’s London tunnels.

The 22-metre high cranes – weighing up to 290 tonnes – have stood above the track next to the busy west coast mainline for almost thirty years. Each one had to be lifted and moved up to 100 metres, so they could be safely dismantled away from the neighbouring rail track.

The organisation has said the removal of the cranes was one of the “most complex engineering challenges” the project has faced so far, requiring thousands of hours of planning and preparation.

Once complete, 16 freight trains a day are expected to serve the planned Rail Logistics Hub, delivering equipment and construction materials and taking out material excavated by the tunnel boring machines digging the tunnels east to Euston and west to the outskirts of the capital.

Commenting on the progress, HS2 project director, Colin Thomas, said: “Once up and running, the Rail Logistics Hub will be the beating heart of our construction activity in the capital, enabling us to deliver equipment and materials and take out huge amounts of excavated material by rail. The safe and efficient removal of the Willesden cranes is the first step to making that possible, and a very visible reminder of the progress we are making in the delivery of Britain’s new high speed line.”

HS2’s enabling works contractor, a Costain Skanska joint venture (CSjv), working with, JF Hunt Ltd (Demolitions) and ALE Heavy Lift used a mobile crane – itself weighing 550 tonnes – to move the first two container cranes last year.

The third – and heaviest of the container cranes – was moved by the same team over the Christmas break using a specialist moving motorised jacking system. It was brought down to ground level on the 6 February, in a controlled collapse.

After weakening the structure of the crane, the team used a 49-tonne excavator to pull the whole thing down onto specially built crash mats. This crane has now been disassembled at ground level, with 95% of the structure set to be recycled.

Neal Carter, PMO director at Costain Skanska Joint Venture (Csjv), said: “Costain and Skanska are making strong progress in preparing the area between Euston and the Colne Valley for the new HS2 route. The demolition of the third and largest crane marks the high point of a busy 12 months on site at Willesden.”

The work is part of HS2’s early works programme, with more than 1,000 people at work across London, clearing the way for the start of construction. At Euston, demolitions are well underway alongside the project’s pioneering archaeology programme, while clearance of Washwood Heath, site of the project’s future rolling stock depot, is also in full swing.

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