HS2 saves £25m after going digital on earth works

Excavation in progress at the site of the Chipping Warden green tunnel (May 2022)

A partnership with the HS2 project and construction equipment supplier Finning to streamline earthmoving work has begun yielding multi-million-pound savingThe EKFB joint venture is the main works civil engineering contractor for the railway’s central section.  

Its DIGital Graphical Earthworks Reporting programme, also known as DIGGER, makes extensive use of data from 700 earthmoving machines, which are fitted with electronic weight sensors to monitor the millions of cubic metres of earth moved across the line’s 80km central section.

The line, running between the northern edge of Chiltern Hills and the east of Leamington Spa, is engineered with a series of embankments and cuttings to blend the new railway into the landscape.

To realise the design, some 53 million cubic metres of rock and earth must be moved; with more than 27 million cubic metres shifted to date – and a similar quantity still to be moved, the system is set to make a significant contribution to delivering the job as efficiently as possible.

Utilising the Finning CUBIQ digital platform and the latest on-machine and site technologies, HS2’s collaboration with Finning and EKFB joint venture delivers real-time digital insights derived from telematic data from the 700 or so machines employed to deliver the earthworks.

To illustrate, if the live data that is fed back to EKFB’s Brackley site base shows one of the 60 excavators idling with a load because it is waiting for a dump truck to arrive, the EKFB team swings into action to shuffle the fleet so it can continue to operate. 

Similarly, the system enables the on-site team to easily identify and resolve any pinch points on site roads which may slow down haulage operations.

HS2 senior innovation manger, Rob Cairns, said: “Delivering HS2 remains a huge task. Most of its constituent parts are major, multi-year projects that provide both the testbed for development of innovative technology and subsequent deployment to enable benefits to be reaped.

“Once innovative, efficiency-enhancing technology has been developed and proven on HS2, it’s ready to be deployed on future projects anywhere across the UK and abroad.”

EKFB’s earthworks director, Mark Harrington, added: “DIGGER is a game changer for EKFB’s earthmoving operations. 

“By providing data that enables us to identify where inefficiencies are occurring in real time, we can implement immediate improvement measures to ensure we maintain optimum efficiency across our operations. 

“This has meant that we’ve been able to reduce costs by around £25m. A significant slice of that saving comes from reduced fuel consumption – so it’s enabled a cut in carbon emissions too.”

Finning UK and Ireland managing director, Tim Ferwerda, said:  “Working closely with HS2 Ltd and EKFB we’ve successfully demonstrated how our technology-led and digitally enabled operational approach supports the delivery of large infrastructure projects in the safest, most efficient and sustainable way possible. 

“We are proud to be spearheading this type of transformative and collaborative approach to planning and delivering earthworks."

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