New Year will be ‘pivotal’ for HS2

HS2 Ltd is preparing for a ‘critical new phase’ as work on the surviving section of Phase 1 between Old Oak Common in west London and Birmingham Curzon Street is stepped up, with an investment of £5 billion in new contracts planned for 2024.

The last 12 months have not been happy ones for the project, which suffered the loss of Phases 2A and 2B north of the West Midlands to Crewe and Manchester when the Prime Minister cancelled them on 4 October, along with the last spur towards the East Midlands.

Controversy continues over the fate of the land and properties which had already been purchased for the section to Crewe, as well as the poorly-received ‘Network North’ plan for alternative transport schemes which would use the £36 billion released by the cancellation. There is also uncertainty about whether HS2 will ever reach its intended terminus at London Euston.

Rolling stock has encountered problems as well. The Department for Transport had attempted to provide only one door on each vehicle, and is now said to be negotiating a costly revised specification for two doors with the rolling stock manufacturers Hitachi and Alstom. Alstom, meanwhile, is poised to close its Litchurch Lane works in Derby, partly because of the reduction in size of the HS2 rolling stock contract, and a decision may be made within weeks.

Even so, the remaining part of HS2 will include new contracts this year which will involve track, power, signalling, overhead lines and the new network control centre.

HS2 Ltd, which described its plans for this year as ‘pivotal’ said the forthcoming work ‘will be constructed to the highest standards to help create a new benchmark for speed and punctuality, ensuring passengers can rely on the service, even in the face of extreme weather’.

Other contracts will include a new telecom system that will provide an uninterrupted mobile signal on board the trains, even in the project’s many tunnels.

Over the past year, HS2 has seen the start of work on the first of 14 new platforms at Old Oak Common, the completion of HS2’s first twin-bore tunnel beneath Long Itchington Wood in Warwickshire, the launch of the first of two tunnel boring machines for the Bromford tunnel on the approach to Birmingham, and the half way point reached on the Colne Valley viaduct, which will be 3.3km long.

It was also confirmed that HS2’s workforce had passed the 30,000-mark.

HS2 Ltd executive chair Sir Jon Thompson said: ‘This is a project of phenomenal scale and ambition and we’re immensely proud of the progress made between London and the West Midlands throughout 2023. There will be no let-up in delivery in 2024.

‘The transition in our focus towards railway systems represents another significant milestone and will edge us ever closer towards bringing this transformational project to life.’

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