Roger Hiorns' unnamed artwork features battered locomotives and engines on their side as if they have come off the rails.
It is one of five designs which have been short-listed to sit outside the new Curzon Street station, in Birmingham, which will be the heart of the HS2 network.
The sculpture has attracted controversy after Steam Railway magazine said it was based on the sister locomotive of the City of Glasgow engine that crashed at Harrow and Wealdstone station in north west London in 1952.
A total of 112 people were killed and 40 injured in the three-train collision. Gavin Wade is the commissioning agent at the Birmingham Big Art Project, which has organised the competition, and he responded to the magazine's comparison. He reportedly said: "This is art, and we want to risk something that's highly charged. That's why we have art. Perhaps they should make trains that don't crash." But Mr Hiorns, a Turner Prize nominee, who was born in Birmingham, is said to to have had no knowledge of the historic disaster.
In his sculpture, the exteriors of the trains will resemble human skin.
The winner will be announced in January 2017 with a grand unveiling planned for April 2018.
The site for the statue is at the western entrance of Eastside City Park, with a new Curzon Square created around the selected artwork.
The HS2 line will run for 45 miles through Staffordshire countryside.
It will cut diagonally from the south of Lichfield to north of Stafford.
Connections on the line to Crewe are set to be opened in 2027.