02 August 2017
HS2 contracts signed for rail link’s first phase
The controversial HS2 project has taken a major step forward with phase one construction contracts signed for the high-speed rail network.
The government-funded HS2 Ltd and a consortium of UK firms are among those to sign on the dotted line. These include Carillion, Costain and Balfour Beatty.
The £6.6 billion commitment gives the go ahead to build tunnels, bridges and earthworks as part of the first phase London to Birmingham line.
Construction would begin during 2018/19, after 16 months of collaborative design between the contractors and HS2 Ltd.
Critics say the £56 billion rail link is too expensive and will cause considerable damage to the environment.
Residents of Buckinghamshire are facing the risk of damage, demolition and noise pollution, with the track running right through the Colne Valley.
Land and property owners within 120 and 300 metres of the line could qualify for compensation of up to £22,500. This applies to residential homes, agricultural land or commercial property with a rateable value of less than £36,000.
"We are determined to deliver the project to new levels of safety and efficiency, with respect for communities, protection for the environment and value for money at the core of everything we do," said HS2 Ltd's chief executive, Mark Thurston.
He says the project will benefit the whole country, generating 16,000 jobs and "thousands of contract opportunities within the wider supply chain".
The Sunday Times last month reported that the cost of the rail link could eventually exceed £100 billion.
An estimate by Michael Byng - the expert who devised the costing method used by Network Rail - suggests the extrapolated costs for the first stage of HS2 would result in a £104bn price tag for the full project.
This would exceed £403 million per mile and make HS2 the most expensive railway in the world.
The first trains are expected to run from 2026.