Bristol digital engineering experts called in to help HS2 costs stay on track

March 12, 2021

Digital engineering innovation developed by Bristol-based specialist CFMS is helping keep costs down on the UK’s HS2 high-speed rail link now under construction between London and Birmingham.

The not-for-profit specialist is harnessing its world-class modelling capability to help improve the design and performance of the controversial project, Britain’s biggest infrastructure project which has been dogged by spiralling costs and delays since it was announced in 2010. 

CFMS, based on the Bristol and Bath Science Park, has already completed a number of projects for HS2 to optimise earthworks for flood prevention, which has resulted in what it says are significant savings and improvements.

Further projects are underway to improve air acoustics to make it quieter and other aspects of the scheme, phase one of which includes 140 miles of dedicated track, 32 miles of tunnels and 10 miles of viaducts, delivering quicker journeys on more trains with more seats.

Two further phases are planned to extend the link to the North West and Yorkshire, with 18 trains an hour running in each direction at speeds of up to 224mph.

HS2’s costs, which were estimated in 2010 at between £30.9bn and £36bn, have soared to up to an estimated £100bn, with critics claiming the project is causing severe environmental damage and the money would be better spent on improving other parts of the UK;s rail network.

CFMS, whose chairman is former Airbus UK managing director Prof Iain Gray, has until now pioneered new approaches to digital engineering largely in the automotive and aerospace and sectors, including the use of folding wingtips to improve aircraft efficiency.

With HS2, it is demonstrating the potential of digital engineering to bring about significant improvements in other sectors, including infrastructure, energy and net zero.

Digital engineering tools, such as advanced simulation, model-based engineering and artificial intelligence can help to improve the design, development and operation of high-value, complex projects such as HS2.

Using its expertise in digital engineering, it has created virtual models to predict flood scenarios. With these digital models, the plans for earthworks to prevent flood damage were verified, resulting in significant savings.

Future projects will focus on supporting the development of the HS2 ‘virtual railway’ concept, a core competence to provide essential data to aid decision making and improve services.

HS2 head of innovation Howard Mitchell said: “HS2 is helping to change the face of British industry and is a great opportunity to drive new digital ideas and skills. Digital design and analysis tools enable us to design and build better first time, optimising efficiency and the operation of HS2.

“HS2 is working with CFMS to harness its world-class modelling capability to help improve the design and performance of the project. 

“We are working together on the optimisation of earthworks for flood prevention, schedule modelling and understanding sound waves around trains and structures, leading to significant savings and improvements across the project.”

Prof Gray, pictured, added: “Technology advances mean more industries can now benefit from tools such as complex simulation and modelling.

“CFMS pioneered digital engineering in aerospace in Bristol and beyond and is demonstrating the benefits across a range of industries spread across the UK. We are excited to be helping HS2 and the rail industry to adopt these tools and gain efficiency.”

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