The HS2 project has been given formal approval to begin its construction phase.
The government has now issued a notice to proceed to firms that have been contracted to construct the high speed railway.
Where will construction begin?
HS2 Ltd, the company developing the railway, will begin construction of bridges, tunnels, embankments and viaducts for phase one of the project, between London and Birmingham.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the go ahead for the project back in February, despite it running tens of billions of pounds over budget and many years behind schedule.
The first HS2 trains between London Euston and Birmingham were originally due to start running by December 2026, but the project is overdue. It could now be 10 years later before full services start operating.
Passenger trains between Old Oak Common in west London and Birmingham Curzon Street are due to start running between 2029 and 2033, with the line extended to London Euston between 2031 and 2036.
Despite warnings that the final bill could reach £106 billion, ministers have said work on the project can no longer be delayed. HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson said while the government’s main priority is combating the spread of coronavirus, it cannot delay work on its long-term plan to “level up the country”.
He said, “HS2 will be the spine of the country’s transport network, boosting capacity and connectivity, while also re-balancing opportunity fairly across our towns and cities.
“Following the decision earlier this year to proceed with the project, this next step provides thousands of construction workers and businesses across the country with certainty at a time when they need it, and means that work can truly begin on delivering this transformational project.”
Which firms will construct the railway?
Many building sites are currently closed due to the coronavirus lockdown, while others have been forced to open with fewer workers to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
The decision to begin construction of phase one of the HS2 project marks a positive step for the construction industry, giving contractors and supply chains the confidence they can commit to building the project.
Four joint ventures were awarded main works civil contracts for phase one of the HS2 project in July 2017, worth a total of £12 billion.
- SCS Railways (Skanska Construction UK, Costain and Strabag)
- Align joint venture (Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine and VolkerFitzpatrick)
- EKFB joint venture (Eiffage Genie Civil SA, Kier Infrastructure and Overseas, Ferrovial Agroman and BAM Nuttall)
- BBV joint venture (Balfour Beatty Group, Vinci Construction Grands Projets, Vinci Construction UK and Vinci Construction Terrassement)
When will construction work begin?
Preparatory work still remains on hold at some HS2 sites pending a review of what operations can be carried out in accordance with coronavirus guidelines.
However, HS2 Ltd said the four joint ventures will “start work immediately” on detailed designs, site preparation work and issuing sub-contracts.
The companies involved are ensuring a minimum clearance of two metres between all staff, having facilities for regular hand washing, and single occupancy of all vehicles unless agreed in advance.
What is the timeline for phase two?
With phase one now given approval to get under way, it is estimated that the services between Old Oak Common in west London and Birmingham will begin running between 2029 and 2033.
These are the estimated time frames for phase two of the project:
- 2031 to 2036 - The line is forecast to be extended to London Euston.
- 2027 - Phase 2a from Birmingham to Crewe was due to open this year, but that has also since been delayed
- 2033 - HS2 was due to be completed by this point, with phase 2b running from Crewe to Manchester, and Birmingham to Leeds. It is not clear when either part of the second phase will be completed