HS2 construction given official green light with works to start ‘immediately’

Contractors social distancing at work sites

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Wednesday 15 April 2020 11:42
Comments
Government approves HS2 construction phase

The government has formally approved the construction of the new HS2 railway line, with the main works on the project set to start immediately.

The “notice to proceed” was confirmed by the Department for Transport early on Wednesday morning, allowing the project’s main civil works contractors to put spades in the ground.

HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson said: “We cannot delay work on our long-term plan to level up the country.”

With the UK expected to enter a deep recession because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and measures taken to combat it, the project will provide work for the construction industry – which has been hit badly.

Governments often bring forward public works projects during recessions to provide employment and get money circulating in the economy.

Mark Thurston, chief executive of HS2 Ltd, 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 10 years in development and design. While the country’s focus is rightly on defeating Covid-19, the issuing of Notice to Proceed today 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.”

Preparatory work on the project had already long begun, including readying the ground and the demolition of buildings. However, the green light for the constructions of bridges, tunnels and earthworks had been on hold while the project’s future was in doubt.

The Independent understands that most HS2 work sites closed down when the government introduced measures to combat Covid-19, but some have managed to reopen where it has been possible to take social distancing measures. Covid-19 lockdown measures do not include a blanket ban on construction work.

Full speed ahead: the planned High Speed 2 network

Boris Johnson, a longtime sceptic of HS2, said the project would go ahead in February, after a review he commissioned found it was the best way to improve rail capacity on the UK’s busiest travel corridors.

The project is a network of three railway links radiating from Birmingham: one to Manchester and the northwest, one to Leeds via the East Midlands, and one to London. The first phase runs from London to Birmingham.

As well as speeding up journey times between cities, the line will allow more local and regional trains to serve smaller towns and cities by separating stopping services and intercity services – which currently mix together in an inefficient way.

High-speed trains will also be able to run on existing lines to destinations off the main network like Edinburgh, Newcastle, Liverpool and Stafford.

The project has been dogged by escalating costs and delays, however, and proved controversial – including in Mr Johnson’s own Conservative Party.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in