HS2 Ltd has issued Notice to Proceed with full detailed design and construction of the 225 km London – West Midlands Phase 1 of the high speed network.

UK: On April 15 the Department for Transport gave project promoter HS2 Ltd approval to issue its four main works civils contractors with Notice to Proceed with full detailed design and construction of the 225 km London – West Midlands Phase 1 of the high speed network.

NtP marks formal approval for the launch of the construction phase, and the point at which contractors SCS Railways, Align JV, EKFB JV and BBV JV transition from scheme design and preparatory work to full detailed design and construction.

‘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’, said HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson.

Full business case


DfT has also published the full business case for High Speed 2 Phase 1, setting out the strategic, economic, financial, commercial and management rationale for the project, building on the outline business case published in 2013.

This puts the cost of Phase 1 at £35bn to £45bn, including contingency. Passenger services between Old Oak Common and Birmingham Curzon Street are expected to start between 2029 and 2033, with full Phase 1 services from London Euston to start in 2031-36.

Phase 1 has a central-case benefit-cost ratio of 1·2:1, including wider economic impacts. The full Y-shaped network comprising phases 1, 2a and 2b, has a BCR of 1·5:1 including wider economic impacts. However, the business case says that until information is available on the potential impact of Covid-19 on long-term demand and economic growth, ‘it is not possible to say whether this will materially impact the value for money of HS2’.

Boost to the construction industry

HS2 Ltd CEO Mark Thurston said NtP was ‘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 impression

He said ‘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.’

HS2 Ltd estimates that Phase 1 will create 400 000 supply chain contract opportunities, of which around 95% would be won by UK-based businesses, with around two-thirds of these being SMEs.

The High Speed Rail Group welcomed the NtP announcement. ‘At a time when the country is facing such enormous challenges, this is very welcome news’, said director Will Roberts ‘We must continue to look to the long-term, and there is no project which will do more to transform the long-term prospects of UK plc than HS2.’

Align JV awarded Fugro a £5·2m site characterisation package contract as part of design and construction preparation works for HS2 Phase 1.

Roberts said ‘a small army of 11 000 people is already working to make HS2 a reality – and that number will rise to 15 000 this year and 30 000 in the longer term, including 2 000 apprentices.’

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association, said HS2 was a ‘truly transformational project’ for the economy and connectivity, which would ‘create thousands of jobs and spur investment, at a time when the UK will be looking at how it can recover economically from this coronavirus outbreak’.

Eamon O’Hearn, National Officer at the GMB union which represents HS2 construction workers and those in the wider supply chain, said ‘HS2 is a project of national importance but the safety of its workforce, and supply chain, must be the overriding priority. Construction should be conditional on rigorous observation of social distancing, provision of personal protective equipment where required, individualised risk assessments for workers with underlying conditions, and mandatory dialogue between contractors of all levels and recognised unions.’

HS2 Phase 1 Main Works Civils Contracts 
Contractor Joint venture members Value Scope
SCS Railways Skanska Construction UK Ltd, Costain Ltd, Strabag £3·3bn Euston Tunnels and Approaches, Northolt Tunnels
Align JV Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine, VolkerFitzpatrick £1·6bn Chiltern Tunnels and Colne Valley Viaduct
EKFB JV Eiffage Genie Civil, Kier Infrastructure & Overseas Ltd, BAM Nuttall, Ferrovial Agroman £2·3bn North Portal Chiltern Tunnels to Brackley, Brackley to South Portal of Long Itchington Wood Green Tunnel
BBV JV Balfour Beatty Group, VINCI Construction Grands Projets, VINCI Construction UK Ltd, VINCI Construction Terrassement £4·8bn Long Itchington Wood Green Tunnel to Delta Junction and Birmingham Spur, Delta Junction to West Coast Main Line Tie-In (Handsacre Junction)
Stations, rolling Stock, railway systems and other non-civils contracts are not part of the MWCC awards.