The starting gun was fired today on the second phase of HS2 with bids invited for a design and delivery partner to oversee the next leg of the ambitious rail project.

The 36-mile route, from the West Midlands to Crewe in Cheshire, is scheduled to open between 2029 and 2033 and is expected to support 5,000 jobs.

The £4.5 billion investment marks part of a wider strategy by the government as it seeks to re-set the political agenda after the pandemic.

Ministers believe that the disproportionate impact of the virus on groups including low-paid workers  has underlined the need to ‘level-up’ the country and spread opportunities more fairly.

PCSG is supporting HS2 – Europe’s largest rail project – on a programme-wide basis with the development of a digital twin of the entire rail system.

We were selected in 2018 to develop an integration and visualisation hub in which the huge number of data-sets being managed and procured on the project are brought together in one place and made easy to access and interrogate.

A cloud-based platform, which uses our industry-leading GeoConnect+ solution, provides instant access to relevant information to the design and construction teams  – everything from health and safety and environmental information to BIM data.

The data is used to support key business decisions and processes including design reviews and co-ordination, interface management and progressive assurance.

Ultimately, it will become a ‘digital twin’ of the entire HS2 rail system – a vital tool for enabling its efficient maintenance and operation.

Dr Sonia Zahiroddiny, head of digital engineering at HS2 Ltd, explained in a recent interview: “We’re not only going to use it (the digital twin) during design and construction, and potentially testing and commissioning, to have this holistic view of the railway to validate and verify that it actually meets all of our requirements and we can operate it…We’re also leaving something for our end-user, the state operator, to take and run with.”

The decision by HS2 Ltd to place digital engineering at the heart of its delivery strategy marks a new milestone for the rail industry and for the way in which complex, large-scale infrastructure projects are designed, constructed and maintained.

HS2 is leading the way in the infrastructure sector to exploit new technologies and to introduce new, digitally centred ways of working. Other sectors, including manufacturing and aerospace have long recognised the benefits of digital twinning to develop, operate and maintain products more quickly and at a lower cost.

You can learn more about our support of HS2 and other leading infrastructure projects on Twitter: @PCSG_World