The high-speed railway project’s ultimate goal is to be fully diesel-free by 2029.

Earlier this year, the Canterbury Road Vent Shaft in South Kilburn, managed by Skanska Costain Strabag joint venture (SCS JV), became HS2’s first diesel-free site. Also managed by SCS, the Euston Approaches and Victoria Road Crossover Box sites have achieved diesel-free status.

Align, a joint venture of Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine, and VolkerFitzpatrick, is also operating seven of its 14 sites without diesel. These include five vent shaft sites along the route of the 16km Chiltern tunnels in Buckinghamshire, and two sites involved in the construction of the Colne Valley Viaduct.

Transport minister Huw Merriman said HS2 would help to transform the future of construction, decarbonise transport and help deliver Net Zero.

“This is yet another important milestone in the journey towards diesel-free construction, as HS2 ensures this project has a minimal impact on the environment and local communities while transforming journeys for decades to come,” he said.

HS2 Ltd’s head of environmental sciences, Andrea Davidson, said achieving one diesel-free site in 2022 was the first target in its Net Zero Carbon Plan.

“We’re thrilled to see 10 sites already reaching this major milestone supported through the hard work from our on-site teams,” she said.

“Our ‘Diesel-free Plan: Building a net zero future’ explains how we will reach our goal by improving efficiencies, switching to cleaner fuels, using renewable power such as solar, using the latest cleanest and fully-electric machinery, and continuing to collaborate with the wider industry to set new standards and push the boundaries of green innovation.”

SCS JV aims to be fully diesel-free by the end of 2023 using a combination of mains electricity, fully electric machines, renewable energy and biofuels.

Its first site – Canterbury Road Vent Shaft in South Kilburn – is connected to mains electricity on a 100% renewable energy tariff. This powers one of the UK’s first 160-tonne emissions-free fully electric crawler cranes, as well as other electric plant such as electric compressors, with the rest of the machinery using sustainably sourced biofuels as a replacement for diesel.

At HS2’s Euston Approaches, also managed by SCS JV, the world’s first all-electric, high-capacity Bauer drilling rig cuts 1,200kg of CO2 per day and reduces noise by 50%.

In addition, one of the tower cranes in the Euston Area has been fitted with the Punch Flybrid ‘flywheel’ energy recovery system, which stores kinetic energy to use when needed to reduce peak energy demand. The technology recently won the Carbon Net Zero Initiative of the Year and the overall Initiative of the Year Award at the British Construction Industry Awards.

SCS’s third diesel-free site, Victoria Road Crossover Box, has a mains electricity connection, electric equipment and uses sustainably sourced biofuels. The site recently completed trials for two GeoPura 250kVA hydrogen power units – cutting carbon and improving air.

SCS managing director James Richardson said he was proud the joint venture was pioneering diesel-free construction.

“We are committed to seeking out and adopting new technology and ways of working to eliminate diesel on construction sites. This all starts with a shift in mindset and a belief that our industry can have a cleaner, greener future,” he said.

As well as seven of Align’s 14 sites becoming diesel-free, its 136-acres Chiltern Tunnels South Portal, HS2’s largest construction site, is set to be 100% diesel-free next year. More than 120 pieces of plant, including dumpers, tractors, excavators, pumps and crushers, are powered by biofuels. There is also a range of electric plant such as telehandlers and excavators, renewable energy sources such as solar, and site safety gates powered by hydrogen.

Align JV carbon and energy manager Adetunji Lawal said the earthworks at the Chiltern Tunnel South Portal represented 70% of the site’s fuel consumption and these were now entirely diesel free.

“We estimate Align will be able to deliver carbon savings that equate to 80,000 tonnes by the end of the project, supporting HS2’s zero carbon ambitions,” Lawal said.

HS2 has published its plans to achieve project-wide diesel-free construction sites by 2029 in ‘Diesel-free Plan: Building a net zero future’. It includes a new ratings system that ranks all sites from diamond to bronze, so progress can be mapped. This will be published in the Environmental and Sustainability Progress Reports.

It highlights that by the end of 2022, all joint ventures working on the HS2 Main Work Civils will have a plan to accelerate their own diesel-free goals. Through 2023, HS2 will continue to facilitate green innovation trials on its sites, aiming to achieve additional diesel-free sites. Between 2024 and 2029, HS2 says it will continue to work with the industry to “pioneer cleaner and greener ways of working, unblock challenges and increase the use of reliable, proven diesel-free alternatives”.