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Government gives HS2 permission to build

It means the company can put together more detailed designs & start construction in Bucks.

Published by Dan Gooding at 9:07am 15th April 2020. (Updated at 10:57am 16th April 2020) 6-minute read.

Government gives HS2 permission to build

The government has given HS2 permission to go ahead with construction in Buckinghamshire.

HS2 Limited can now get their four main contractors to carry out details design and building projects along Phase 1.

The move today, allowing a 'notice to proceed', comes after the government said the rail line could go ahead in February.

More HS2 stories from Mix96

HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson said:

"While the government’s top priority is rightly to combat the spread of coronavirus, protect the NHS and save lives, we cannot delay work on our long-term plan to level up the country.

"HS2 will be the spine of the country’s transport network, boosting capacity and connectivity while also rebalancing opportunity fairly across our towns and cities.

"Following the decision earlier this year to proceed with the project, this next step provides thousands of construction workers and businesses across the country with certainty at a time when they need it, and means that work can truly begin on delivering this transformational project."

To date, the contracts between HS2 Ltd and the Main Works Civils Contractors (MWCC) for Phase One have focused on undertaking scheme design and site preparation (including pricing and scoping) for the civils work.

HS2 enabling works
HS2 enabling works in Aylesbury Vale

The issuing of NtP marks the point in the MWCC contracts where the work transitions from scheme design and preparatory work, to full detailed design and construction. 

Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2 Ltd, said:

“In these difficult times, today’s announcement represents both an immediate boost to the construction industry - and the many millions of UK jobs that the industry supports - and an important investment in Britain’s future: levelling up the country, improving our transport network and changing the way we travel to help bring down carbon emissions and improve air quality for the next generation.”

HS2 Ltd awarding the contracts to four MWCCs is the next significant step of Phase One of the project.

Mark Thurston continued:

“HS2 has been over ten years in development and design.

"While the country’s focus is rightly on defeating COVID-19, the issuing of Notice to Proceed today ensures that our contractors and their supply chains have the confidence that they can commit to building HS2, generating thousands of skilled jobs across the country as we recover from the pandemic.”  

The MWCCs will start work immediately, progressing detailed design, site preparation works and placing important sub-contracts.

There have been concerns about HS2 works continuing during the coronavirus lockdown.

Rob Butler in Parliament
Aylesbury MP Rob Butler

Many have been concerned about workers sticking to distancing rules, including Aylesbury's MP.

Rob Butler told us:

"Hs2 Limited have promised me that the only work they would be doing during the coronavirus crisis is in places where they can be absolutely sure they will be sticking to Public Health England's strict guidelines.

"I will be holding them to account to make sure this is exactly what they do."

HS2 say their contractors are continuously reviewing their ability to work within Public Health England guidelines to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of our workforce and the communities in which they  are working.

Bucks MPs react

Greg Smith, MP for Buckingham said:

“Serious questions need to be asked about the suitability of HS2 Ltd to act as custodians of taxpayers’ money to deliver this railway.

"In February the Prime Minister acknowledged that HS2 Ltd needed to fundamentally change. HS2 Ltd’s abject failure to act responsibly during the COVID-19 crisis does nothing to demonstrate any such change has occurred.

"At a time where over 12,000 people have tragically lost their lives as a result of COVID-19, we have seen HS2 Ltd allow contractors to continue to work on sites across Buckinghamshire, fail to follow social distancing guidance and frighten local residents away from local stores and facilities through a fear of HS2 workers spreading the virus.

"Weeks into the crisis, HS2 Ltd issued a statement pausing enabling works, only to be seen continuing regardless on many sites. The HS2 minister has promised me this morning that sites will only be allowed to operate if they can do so in line with PHE guidance and the overall COVID-19 strategy, and that in the short-term the work will be detailed design, planning and procurement.”

The Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan, MP for Chesham and Amersham said:

“With the warnings from the Office of Budget Responsibility yesterday that GDP could shrink by 35%, we should not be taking additional steps to cement our commitment and finances to an infrastructure project where the business case is now officially “poor”.

"I will be writing to the National Audit Office to call for an immediate examination of this Notice to Proceed at a time when the country’s finances will be needed to rescue our economy rather than continuing with the construction of HS2.”

Rob Butler, MP for Aylesbury said:

“Sadly this moment felt inevitable after the government decided to approve HS2 back in February. But at a time when our economy is being battered by the consequences of the coronavirus, I entirely agree with local residents and businesses who say that our country can't afford it. And I share the bitter disappointment of the thousands of people throughout the Aylesbury constituency who have fought long and hard against this railway.

"I’ve been in touch with the HS2 minister today, who has assured me that there will be a minimal impact on local sites at this stage, with no heavy construction.

"I will continue to hold HS2 Ltd to its promise that it will only carry out work where contractors can comply with Public Health England guidelines, to ensure the safety of both its own workers and the local community.”

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