Posted 15th April 2020 | 5 Comments

Shovels now set to hit the ground as HS2 gets full go-ahead

Updated 11.00

THE Government’s high speed line developer HS2 Ltd has been given permission by the Department for Transport to start the detailed design and construction of Phase 1 of the new railway between London and Birmingham.

A Notice to Proceed has been issued to the four contractors. They are SCS Railways, Align JV, EKFB JV, and BBV JV, who are jointly known as the ‘Main Works Civils Contractors’.

The move is also said to be creating 400,000 supply chain opportunities’ for third-party firms.

Some work had already started at sites in the West Midlands, including both the stations in Birmingham, and at London Euston. Progress has been slowed recently by the coronavirus emergency, but workers had already been set to return to these sites at the start of next week.

Apart from this, the contractors have been preparing scheme designs and drawing up detailed costings for the main construction phase.

The issuing of the Notice to Proceed essentially marks the transition from getting ready to starting work in earnest.

HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston said: ‘In these difficult times, today’s announcement represents both an immediate boost to the construction industry – and the many millions of UK jobs that the industry supports – and an important investment in Britain’s future: levelling up the country, improving our transport network and changing the way we travel to help bring down carbon emissions and improve air quality for the next generation.

‘HS2 has been over ten years in development and design. While the country’s focus is rightly on defeating COVID-19, the issuing of Notice to Proceed ensures that our contractors and their supply chains have the confidence that they can commit to building HS2, generating thousands of skilled jobs across the country as we recover from the pandemic.’

HS2 said the safety of all those involved was under continuous review, and that contractors would be following Public Health England guidelines to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their workers and of the communities affected.

Steve Hollis, who chairs the West Midlands HS2 Growth Strategy, has welcomed the announcement.

‘The initial phase of construction will create more than 16,000 jobs, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of supply chain opportunities,’ he said.

He continued: ‘We are fortunate that the West Midlands is at the heart of the new HS2 network, home to two new high speed stations, Curzon Street in Birmingham and Interchange at Solihull, and the national control centre in Washwood Heath. Therefore, this announcement marks a major milestone in the project, with the construction of HS2 directly benefiting people and businesses across the region.

‘At a time when the global economy will need to rebuild from the economic impact of Covid19, the certainty and confidence that this announcement provides sends out a message to investors across the world that we are open for business. The West Midlands will have a key role to play in restoring the UKs economic fortunes.’

Opposition to the scheme is also continuing. A bid by the broadcaster and naturalist Chris Packham to have the scheme reassessed on environmental grounds has been thrown out by the High Court, but Mr Packham has said he would be appealing against the decision not to allow a judicial review.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • david c smith, Bletchley

    Flaws in the current plan were pointed out over quite a number of years, with a view to getting a better version built. There have, indeed been the nimby brigade who wanted complete abandonment, but there have also been those wanting a better thought - through scheme.

    Of course,looming unemployment , as pointed out, could well be helped by the construction industry's enhanced labour needs. But this would have been so whatever different version were built.

    All the airing of possibilities has already been done, it seems, and we just have to go along with the version we've been lumbered with, "warts and all".

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham

    I guess the reason HS2 was saved was the lack of any credible alternative that had been put forward. I'm not ruling out the possibility that there might have been better options, but the problem is that the antis went for a solution that ignored the problem HS2 was trying to solve, and when this was pointed out, they doubled down on personal attacks instead of listening and coming up with anything better.

    Who knows, if they'd developed proposals for the GCR idea and addressed how you'd get the trains into London, that might have been picked. (I suspect it would have hit the same problem of new city centre stations costing a fortune, but we'll never know now.) But I really don't see how the government can be expected to put an expensive project on hold perpetually whilst it goes on an endless search for cheaper alternatives that probably don't exist.

    And the cost? Consider this a very expensive price tag for not building the extra station platforms and tracks that should have been done fifty years ago.

  • david c smith, Bletchley

    The basic motivation behind HS2 seems fine, but can we honestly say that what is
    now the plan being built is the most cost - effective version that could be?

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    As far as Chris Packham is concerned, I guess he hasn't learnt that No Means No. Surely if he insists on continuing his ridiculous campaign he should be liable for all parties legal costs when he inevitably loses again.
    [Indeed that must be one possibility. The Appeal Judges (assuming this Appeal is heard) could alternatively 'make no order as to costs', which means that everyone pays their own bills. If they grant the Appeal, of course, the liability for costs could go the other way.--Ed.]

  • Melvyn, Canvey Island , Essex

    There is talk of two million unemployed in a few months so schemes like HS2 will become even more important in providing jobs and funds for the economy.

    I noticed how this decision has railed the Antis but the reality is workers on HS2 at sites like Euston will spend money in local cafes and restaurants thus providing income for those businesses .

    Itís worth remembering how during the depression government schemes like extension of central and Piccadilly lines were used to create employment which had the benefits of creating infrastructure which we still use today !