Industry Responds to Government’s HS2 Notice to Proceed Go-Ahead

The rail industry has welcomed the UK government’s approval issued to HS2 Ltd allowing it to issue Notice to Proceed to its four main works civils contractors.

Among the major rolling stock manufacturers, Alstom said major infrastructure projects would help the economy rebuild following the coronavirus pandemic:

Nick Crossfield, Managing Director, Alstom UK & Ireland, said:

“Today, the primary focus for those of us who work in the railways is continuing to provide an service to the country's carers and key workers. But it is also right to plan for the future, and Alstom warmly welcomes the Government's announcement giving HS2 Notice to Proceed.

“When the current crisis passes, projects like HS2 will be even more important in helping us restart the economy, smash the north-south divide, and address the climate challenge. I congratulate everyone involved in getting the project to this key milestone.”

Costain, which forms part of SCS Railways, one of the four civils contractors in question, said it had received the Notice to Proceed from HS2. The contract is worth a total of 3.3 billion GBP to the joint venture that also includes Skanska and Strabag. It will involve designing and constructing major tunnels in the approach to the London terminus at Euston.

Because of coronavirus, all but safety-critical works on site are paused to ensure the health and safety of employees and the communities in which they are active.

Align JV is another one of the four civils contractors to receive the Notice to Proceed. Its HS2 package, the C1 package, is worth 1.6 billion GBP. The C1 route begins roughly 20km west of central London, runs across the Colne Valley and through the Chiltern Hills to the north west. It comprises 21.6km of high-speed rail infrastructure, including a 3.37km viaduct across the Colne Valley and a 16.04km twin-bored tunnel with five ventilation shafts.

Jean-Pierre Margolin, Executive Director at Bouygues Travaux Publics and an Align Board Director, said:

“I am delighted with how the Align team has come together to develop the design and planning in close coordination with all stakeholders involved for what will be an iconic element of HS2. Each company involved in the Align JV is proud to be playing its part in delivering Europe’s largest infrastructure project.”

The Railway Industry Association (RIA) acts on behalf of the UK’s rail supply industry.

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive, RIA, said:

“In these difficult times, it is great news and a real boon to the UK railway industry that this ‘Notice to Proceed’ on HS2 has been announced. HS2 is a truly transformational project for UK plc, its national economy and connectivity, and gives a boost to the whole UK rail network, adding capacity to a number of key routes, benefiting towns, communities and cities across the whole country. It will also 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 – so the Railway Industry Association and rail suppliers around the UK greatly appreciate this exciting news.

“We now look forward to working with the Government, HS2 Ltd, and all those involved in this project as the main works begin.”

The GMB Union meanwhile called for safety to be the top priority. It represents HS2 construction workers as well as those in the wider supply chain.

Eamon O'Hearn, National Officer, GMB Union, said:

“GMB wants to protect workers jobs, health and pay – 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.

“This is an extremely worrying time for everyone in the construction industry and GMB will be fighting HS2 workers' corner in the days and months ahead.”

Naturally, the High Speed Rail Group has also welcomed the government decision. For now, it said, construction must begin in line with Public Health England guidelines. However, during the peak of construction and train building, HS2 will require more than 30,000 workers.

Will Roberts, Director, High Speed Rail Group, said:

“At a time when the country is facing such enormous challenges, this is very welcome news. 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. It will also be vital to tackling the climate emergency, with a new high capacity fully electrified railway line essential to deliver modal shift away from aviation and car travel.

“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. This team, coming from hundreds of different companies all over the UK, will work night and day to make the vision of HS2 a reality.”

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