Phase one of the £100bn railway finally kicks off 10 years after being announced

Prime minister Boris Johnson will head to an HS2 site today to officially launch the start of construction for the railway’s £45bn first phase.

It is a major milestone for the £100bn railway, which was issued a notice to proceed in April more than 10 years after being first announced.

Today’s announcement signals that the project’s main contractors are taking over from the firms carrying out enabling works, scheme design and preparatory work to allow for the full construction phase on the 225km phase one route.

But parts of the Euston station site are still at the enabling works stage, while there is still preparatory work to be done at Birmingham’s £570m Curzon Street station before a main contractor is appointed in spring 2021. Tunneling at the Chiltern tunnels site is also not set to get underway until the spring.

Construction this year will focus on city centre station sites at Old Oak Common and Euston in London, where a Balfour Beatty, Vinci, Systra joint venture and a Mace and Dragados team have been appointed respectively, and major construction compounds at Old Oak Common, M25, Calvert and Streethay.

HS2 - tunnel boring machine prep - June 2020 (1)

Source: HS2

Enabling works for the Chiltern tunnels site

Johnson is set to say: “HS2 is at the heart of our plans to build back better – and with construction now formally underway, it’s set to create around 22,000 new jobs.

“But HS2’s transformational potential goes even further. By creating hundreds of apprenticeships and thousands of skilled jobs, HS2 will fire up economic growth and help to rebalance opportunity across this country for years to come.”

It has been reported in The Times that £12bn has already been spent on the railway - more than a quarter of Phase One’s £45bn budget - while a further £14bn of contracts have been signed.

HS2’s main works contractor for the West Midlands, the Balfour Beatty Vinci joint venture, along with its supply chain partners, has said it expects to be one of the biggest recruiters in the region over the next two years, with up to 7,000 skilled jobs required to complete its section of the HS2 route.

The EKFB joint venture, made up of Eiffage, Kier, Bam Nuttall and Ferrovial, that is building the section from the Long Itchington Wood site in Warwickshire south to the Chiltern tunnel portals, has said it will recruit over 4,000 roles in the next two years.

HS2’s tier one construction partners based in greater London, the Skanska Costain Strabag JV and Align team, made up of Bouygues, Sir Robert McAlpine, and VolkerFitzpatrick, who are on main civils contracts, as well as the two station contractors will collectively recruit more than 10,000 people.

Half of the route between Euston and Birmingham’s Curzon Street station will be either in a tunnel or a cutting, with the 16km Chiltern tunnels being the longest and deepest underground leg.

More than 50 viaducts will also be built, including the 3.4km Colne Viaduct, which is set to be the UK’s longest viaduct when opened.