Group finance director Stewart McIntyre says firm interested in £500m Curzon Street station job
Laing O’Rourke has added its name to the industry’s growing list of firms calling for the government to make a decision on HS2, and admitting it is interested in bidding for one of the remaining big contracts on the first phase of the high-speed railway.
The future of the job has been in the spotlight again this week with a leaked copy of a government review saying that HS2’s costs now stand at £106bn – nearly double the official £56bn figure.
According to the review, building work on the section from the West Midlands to Manchester and Leeds should pause for six months to consider if it would be better to feature a mix of standard and high-speed rail.
On Monday, industry leaders including the chief executives of Balfour Beatty, Skanska, Morgan Sindall, Kier, Sir Robert McAlpine and Mace wrote to Boris Johnson telling him to back it in full. Others who added their names to the letter were the bosses of Costain, Vinci and Keltbray as well as the UK heads of Aecom, Atkins and WSP.
Laing O’Rourke did not put its name to the letter but the firm’s group finance director Stewart McIntyre told Building that the government needed to make decisions soon on a host of big-ticket infrastructure.
The government is saying we need stability and confidence – but they seem to forget the word certainty
Stewart McIntyre, group finance director, Laing O’Rourke
Last week, construction minister Nadhim Zahawi told a Westminster business leaders meeting that construction was looking for “stability and confidence” ahead of the UK leaving the EU at the end of the month.
But McIntyre told Building: “We have a construction minister saying we need stability and confidence, but here we go again.
“There’s further delay on HS2, still not a decision on Heathrow [expansion] nor on any further nuclear plants. The government is saying we need stability and confidence – but they seem to forget the word certainty.”
He added: “Why is HS2 delayed? It’s not because of the contractors, it’s because nobody [in government] has made the decision. I know the political disturbance [of Brexit] has created inertia but somebody, somewhere is going to have to make a decision.”
>> Read more: A timeline of the latest HS2 news
Laing O’Rourke has been carrying out enabling works on the northern section of the first phase of the route between London and Birmingham but pulled out of the race to build the HS2 station at Euston eventually won by a Mace in a deal worth £1.5bn. McIntyre said it “could not get comfortable on our risk assessments” for the job but said it was looking at Curzon Street, the main HS2 station in Birmingham, a project that also includes overstation work.
The job has a £500m price tag and McIntyre said: “We would be interested [but] we will not do it if the contract is too onerous.”
Last summer HS2 was forced to scrap the process to find a contractor to build the station because not enough firms were prepared to shoulder the risk to build it. It has promised a “revised strategy” for the scheme, under which less risk will be handed to the station’s design and build contractor. But procurement has not yet restarted in light of the review.
WSP and Grimshaw have been working on the design of Curzon Street which is due to be sent to planners at Birmingham council in the coming weeks. A second station in the West Midlands, called Interchange and designed by Arup, is also due to go to Solihull council planners shortly.