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 UK’s 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.

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