Minister says 25 of 200 jobs on first phase closed because firms cannot meet public health protocols

Work at 25 HS2 sites is still suspended while contractors try to work out how to meet social distancing protocols drawn up in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic.

Sites on the railway that are unable to meet Public Health England guidelines cannot resume work, transport minister Baroness Vere said.


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HS2 sites where workers cannot socially distance have been shut down

In a written reply to a question from Labour peer Lord Berkeley, a former deputy chair of the Oakervee review into the scheme and critic of the railway, she said: "Work at the remaining sites is either paused, while contractors review whether operations can continue, or is proceeding where sites can continue to operate in accordance with the guidance."

Last week HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston told MPs on the transport select committee that his organisation had spent two weeks reviewing which of its 200 sites on the first phase of the route between London and Birmingham could operate during the pandemic.

He said: “If we can’t comply with the guidelines we will shut our sites. We will take a zero-tolerance approach with our contractors.

“Our contractors are ultimately responsible for complying with the guidelines. I’ve engaged with all of the CEOs of our key contractors. They take this very seriously.”

Thurston also revealed anti-HS2 protesters have been putting workers at risk by breaching social distancing guidelines near construction sites

He said the conduct of some demonstrators was causing “significant issues around making sure we can protect our sites and protect our workers”.