Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced publication of the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) for the new London-Birmingham high speed rail line during an official visit to China. He was attending an event in Chengdu to woo some of China’s biggest investors to be part of the project as well as other major UK infrastructure projects.
Mr Osborne also announced a new ‘HS2 partnering day’ between British and Chinese firms to explore joining up on bids for contracts.
There are seven main civils works contracts up for grabs, covering the surface route and tunnels. At this stage suppliers will be allowed to express an interest in all seven packages.
Following the PQQ process, favoured applicants will be invited to bid for a maximum of four packages at tender stage, with a maximum award of up to two contracts per tenderer.
The seven contracts are split over three geographical areas (north, central, south), along the phase 1 route from London to Birmingham. There will also be the option for additional contracts covering the route north of Birmingham, subject to ministerial decisions on this later in the year.
The civil contracts are the first tranche of the Main Works Packages and cover surface routes and tunnels. The second tranche comprises stations. Tranche three comprises railway systems. These will be launched in 2016 and 2017.
Construction works are expected to start in 2017 following Royal Assent of the Phase 1 Hybrid Bill which is currently being considered by Parliament.
The government is organising an ‘HS2 partnering day’ to give Chinese companies an opportunity to meet UK firms and establish potential partnerships to join up on bids.
The Chancellor is also inviting Chinese participation in the HS2 skills college, which is due to open in 2017.
Mr Osborne said: “This government is committed to rebalancing our economy and building a Northern Powerhouse, and improving transport links and launching HS2 is key to supporting long-term economic growth across the North and Midlands. That’s why I’m here in China today opening the bidding process for construction contracts worth £11.8bn, which 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 Ltd chief executive Simon Kirby said: “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.
“Over the next decade, the winners of these contracts will go on to build 230km of bridges, tunnels and earthworks and create thousands of jobs across 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.”
An industry source said it was unlikely that the chancellor's invitation to Chinese contractors would result in much change to the existing international consortia that have already been established to bid for HS2 work, most of whom have already been preparing for a year or more. However, as the Chinese have built many miles of high speed rail in recent years, there was likely to be some expertise there worth tapping up.
Consortia already established ot bid for HS2 civil engineering contracts include:
- Sir Robert McAlpine, Volker Fitzpatrick, Bouygues
- LFM – Laing O’Rourke, FCC Construcción, Murphy
- Kier, Carillion, Eiffage
- Morgan Sindall, BAM, Ferrovial
- Costain, Skanska, Strabag
- Balfour Beatty, Vinci
- Galliford Try, Hochtief, Dragados
- Lagan, Sisk, Acciona.