The Government has given its formal approval for construction work to begin the HS2 high-speed rail link from London to Manchester.
Firms will be expected to follow social distancing rules as work begins on the project. With costs of the project already expected to exceed £100 billion, the government saw no reason to delay work on HS2 further. The announcement that work will begin is likely to also be welcomed by the construction sector, as around a quarter of active projects have been halted due to coronavirus, with widespread furloughing of staff and job losses.
Mark Thurston, Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd, said:
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.”
HS2 was given approval by Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this year, following a review into the project after estimated costs had more than doubled since the high-speed rail link was first proposed.
Construction of new infrastructure like HS2 formed part of Boris Johnson’s election campaign pledge to ‘level up’ the UK’s regions. The rail link will increase capacity on routes between London and cities in the North and Midlands, including Manchester, Crewe, Leeds and Birmingham.
Barry White, Chief Executive of Transport for the North, has welcomed the announcement. He said:
Today’s announcement that HS2 has been given permission to start building the network in earnest is fabulous news.
“It marks the beginning of a new era in British railway construction that will see new high speed lines built to the North of England – the first railways to the North in more than a century.
“This will give much needed new capacity to help economic growth and prosperity and rebalance the British economy.
“Together with Northern Powerhouse Rail, transforming connectivity across the North, there is a real opportunity for levelling up to enable the North to realise its potential as a world-class area to live, work and invest.”