The Chancellor announces a major milestone for HS2 while speaking at an event in Chengdu, China.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced today a significant new milestone for the government’s High Speed 2 rail project, kicking off the bidding process for phase one of the mega construction project.
At least seven new contracts worth a total of £11.8 billion will be made available to businesses.
The announcement was made by the Chancellor at an event in Chengdu, China, aimed at luring some of China’s biggest investors to participate in the project, as well as a slew of other major UK infrastructure projects.
Osborne also announced a new ‘HS2 partnering day’ for British and Chinese firms to discuss collaborating on contract bids, as well as the launch of the Northern Powerhouse pitch book.
The event is part of the Chancellor’s five-day tour of China, which aims to strengthen bilateral cooperation and make China the UK’s second largest export market.
HS2 is a key component of the government’s plan to rebalance the UK economy and create a Northern Powerhouse by providing high-speed rail connections from London to the Midlands and the North.
The first phase of construction is set to begin in 2017, and when completed, it will reduce the travel time between London and Birmingham from 1 hour 21 minutes to 49 minutes.
Plans to transform East-West rail links are also being developed.
While travelling on a section of China’s vast network of high-speed railways, the Chancellor stated:
“This government is committed to rebalancing our economy and establishing a Northern Powerhouse, and improving transportation links and launching HS2 are critical to sustaining long-term economic growth in the North and Midlands.”
“That’s why I’m in China today, kicking off the bidding process for construction contracts worth £11.8 billion that will propel HS2 forward.”
“We are truly entering a golden era of cooperation between our two countries, and it’s crucial that businesses and communities from across the UK feel the full benefit of forging closer economic links with China.”
“HS2 provides an excellent opportunity for businesses across the UK,” Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said, adding that 25,000 jobs will be created during construction and 3,000 will be created once the project is operational.
“The start of the procurement process for these significant contracts is a major step towards construction on HS2 getting underway in two years’ time and a massive opportunity to help rebalance our economy long before the trains start running in 2026.”
“The start of the civil engineering bidding process is a major milestone for HS2 as we continue to move towards the start of construction in 2017,” said HS2 Ltd chief executive Simon Kirby.
“Over the next decade, the contract winners will construct 230 kilometres of bridges, tunnels, and earthworks, creating thousands of jobs in the construction industry.”
“Together we will transform intercity rail travel in the UK, build specialist skills and expertise across the country, create at least 2,000 new apprenticeships and build a legacy to inspire the next generation of young engineers.”
The government is currently organising a ‘HS2 partnering day’ to allow Chinese companies to meet with UK firms and form potential partnerships to collaborate on bids.
In addition, the Chancellor is inviting Chinese participation in the HS2 skills college, which is set to open in 2017.
A skills-swap programme would enable the UK to benefit from China’s expertise as a world leader in High Speed Rail, while also assisting Chinese investors in better understanding the UK market.
The Chancellor is also encouraging Chinese firms to participate in an HS2 “regeneration tour,” which would take them to areas with significant commercial potential in London, the Midlands, and the North.
Investors would be able to meet with local authorities and tour station sites.