Jacobs: Transpennine Route Upgrade
The Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU) is a large infrastructure project that aims to improve the railway line between York and Manchester, including Leeds and Huddersfield covering 76 miles of train lines that run through the Pennines, a rural area that’s well known for its natural beauty and designated ecological areas.
What we know
TRU aims to improve long-term connectivity across the North of the U.K. [source]. The programme places a heavy focus on the environment, with a heightened focus on preserving and increasing biodiversity in works areas.
The environmental impacts of works were considered from the outset and the project has sought to not only minimise negative impacts but to generate net positive environmental outcomes, with the requirement for developments to achieve a measurable 10% biodiversity net gain. To achieve this target, the project has utilised scientific best practices, the implementation of organisational policies and principles, as well as stakeholder inclusion.
What we’re doing
From its planning stages, TRU has considered the impacts of works on biodiversity, natural capital and ecosystem services. In line with Network Rail’s Net Positive Principles, the project has sought to not simply minimise negative environmental impacts, but to generate net positive impacts. These principles were incorporated into the early planning stages, along with identifying key stakeholders to work with.
An example from one development site involved natural vegetation regrowth after intervention to slightly below the pre-intervention baseline, according to DEFRA-developed biodiversity indicators. However, this was offset by work off-site to replace amenity grassland with a more natural wildflower meadow, resulting in a much greater gain.
As measured, the sites taken together represented a biodiversity net gain of 41%. Under the Environment Act, the minimum requirement for biodiversity net gain is 10%.
What it’s worth
TRU has set an objective of achieving 10% biodiversity net gain. This represents industry best practice and is in line with the upcoming Environment Act requirement. Meeting this requires active management of biodiversity at both the programme and delivery levels but presents the opportunity to deliver significant and lasting biodiversity benefit.
The project has made use of scientific best practices to not simply meet but exceed new targets for environmental gains laid out by the Environment Act. Policies and principles followed by Network Rail ensure that opportunities for positive impacts will be identified, pursued and monitored based on science and accepted best practice.
Stakeholder inclusion at all stages of the project is of vital importance to ensure the programme’s biodiversity impacts are positive at a local level. Habitats and biodiversity are preserved and enhanced wherever possible, with offsetting as compensation for negative impacts only used when more favourable approaches are not possible.