UK: The government announced on November 15 that it had awarded contracts worth £900m for enabling work on the first phase of the High Speed 2 project linking London with the West Midlands. In addition, the government also confirmed its preferred route for Phase 2b of the scheme, taking the railway from Crewe to Manchester and from the West Midlands to Leeds, completing a Y-shaped corridor with connections to the existing East Coast and West Coast main lines.

The following companies have been awarded the Phase 1 enabling works contracts:

  • Area South: CS JV (Costain Group Plc, Skanska Construction UK Ltd);
  • Area Central: Fusion JV (Morgan Sindall plc, BAM Nuttall Ltd, Ferrovial Agroman (UK) Ltd);
  • Area North: LM JV (Laing O’Rourke Construction Ltd, J Murphy & Sons Ltd).

These contracts cover preparatory works including archaeological investigations, site clearance and the setting up of construction compounds ahead of the start of the main civil engineering work.

Contracts worth up to £11·8bn for construction work between London and Crewe would be let from 2017, the government said.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling also confirmed what he termed ‘the majority of the route’ for Phase 2b, which was the subject of public consultation in 2013. The government intends to bring a hybrid bill before parliament in 2019 that would cover 82 route-km extensions from Crewe to Manchester Piccadilly and a junction with the WCML south of Wigan, and a 198 km route from a junction with Phase 1 near Lichfield to Leeds and a junction with the ECML at Church Fenton south of York.

Upon completion, Phase 2 is expected to reduce journey times between Birmingham and Manchester from 1 h 28 min to 40 min, and from Leeds to Birmingham from 1 h 58 min to 49 min. Intermediate stations are planned at Toton, which would be served by local trains from Nottingham and Derby, and at Manchester Airport, subject to final agreement of a local funding contribution.

There are seven sections of the Phase 2b alignment where the government is proposing changes to the consultation route, of which the most significant is in South Yorkshire. Project delivery company HS2 Ltd has proposed an alternative alignment running further east of Sheffield, replacing the initial proposal to serve the city’s Meadowhall transport interchange and retail complex. Grayling said that a final decision on this and other amendments, including moving a rolling stock depot from Golborne near Wigan to a site north of Crewe, would be taken next year following further public consultation.

The government says that HS2’s budget remains £55·7bn at 2015 prices, and Phase 2b will open for traffic in 2033. Including wider economic impacts, the government expects that Phase 2b will have a benefit:cost ratio of 3·1:1.