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Tue October 27 2020

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D-day for HS2 – That's D for Digging!

4 Sep After years of planning and preliminary work, today is the day when contractors on HS2 officially start digging – D-day.

Costain Skanska JV has been doign enablign works for the new Euston Station in London
Costain Skanska JV has been doign enablign works for the new Euston Station in London

The government gave formal notice to proceed in April to the four main works civils contractors for phase one (London-Birmingham). Today they move from enabling works, scheme design and preparatory work to full construction of the railway.

The Department for Transport still does not know exactly what HS2 will cost to build or when it will be finished. Its range estimate for phase one is anywhere between £35bn and £45bn. Partial start of phase one passenger services between Old Oak Common and Birmingham Curzon Street are due to begin anytime between 2029 and 2033. Full Phase One services from Euston are forecast to start sometime between 2031 and 2036.

However, today is all about cheering the job creation aspects of the project, rather than questioning its cost or necessity.

The contractors involved in phase one said they plan to employ 22,000 people on the construction.

In the West Midlands, the Balfour Beatty Vinci Joint Venture (BBV JV), along with its supply chain partners, expects to create 7,000 jobs required to complete its section of the HS2 route, while the EKFB Joint Venture of Eiffage, Kier, BAM Nuttall and Ferrovial – building the section from the Long Itchington Wood site in Warwickshire to the Chiltern tunnel portals – has said it will recruit more than 4,000 in the next two years as work ramps up.

The other contractors, Skanska Costain Strabag JV (SCS), Balfour Beatty Vinci Systra (BBVS), Align (Bouygues/Sir Robert McAlpine/VolkerFitzpatrick) and Mace Dragados JV, will collectively recruit more than 10,000 for the job.

HS2 Ltd itself is already recruiting for 500 new roles over the next three months, mostly in Birmingham.

HS2 Ltd chief executive Mark Thurston said: “This is a hugely exciting moment in the progress of HS2. After 10 years of development and preparatory work, today we can formally announce the start of full construction, unlocking thousands of jobs and supply chain opportunities across the project.

“We are already seeing the benefits that building HS2 is bringing to the UK economy in the short term, but it’s important to emphasise how transformative the railway will be for our country when operational. With the start of construction, the reality of high speed journeys joining up Britain’s biggest cities in the north and midlands and using that connectivity to help level up the country has just moved a step closer.”

Construction will begin with the stations and tunnels, then the main viaducts and bridges, and finally route surface works. As such, most activity during 2020 will be focused on the city centre station sites and the major construction compounds at Old Oak Common, M25, Calvert and Streethay.

More than 2,000 cranes, tipper trucks, dumpers and excavators will be used across more than 200 separate construction sites.

Photo taken at St James's Gardens in London (trial holes for Euston) by John Zammit for HS2 Ltd
Photo taken at St James's Gardens in London (trial holes for Euston) by John Zammit for HS2 Ltd

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Skanska Costain Strabag has confirmed that it will create an estimated 4,800 jobs while Align JV expects to recruit 1,200.

BBVS will have a workforce of approximately 1,400 to support the construction of Old Oak Common Station in London.

Nigel Russell, project director for Balfour Beatty Vinci Systra, said: “As works begin to ramp up at Old Oak Common, we are now turning our attention to attracting, training and retaining the best talent, offering the opportunity to work on the largest new station built in the UK in over 100 years and play a key role in delivering Britain’s first low carbon, high speed railway.”

Mace Dragados forecasts that it will need 3,000 workers build the capital’s new high speed station in Euston. Project director Martyn Woodhouse said: “The construction of HS2’s Euston station is an amazing opportunity to get into the heart of the local community and provide not just jobs but lasting careers. People sometimes focus on the construction jobs but there’s so many more careers available on a big project like this and we want everyone to get involved.”

EKFB JV director David Lowery said: “It’s our mission at EKFB to use the platform of the HS2 project to lead the transformation of our industry, influence future generations, support the UK economy and leave a legacy that improves people’s lives. The creation of around 4000 jobs provides an unprecedented opportunity to do this. The focus of our employment legacy will be apprenticeships, worklessness and supporting people in education. We will also provide training and work experience programmes that can lead to employment opportunities for younger and other unemployed individuals, as well as working to attract underrepresented groups.”

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “Today marks a major milestone in this government’s ambitions to build back better from Covid-19. Shovels in the ground to deliver this new railway means thousands of jobs building the future of our country’s infrastructure. This fantastic moment is what leaders across the North and Midlands have called for – action to level up our country by boosting capacity on our railways, improving connections between our regions, and spreading prosperity.”

HS2: who’s building what

SCS Railways (Skanska Construction UK Ltd, Costain Ltd, Strabag): Euston tunnels and approaches and Northolt tunnels.

Align JV (Bouygues Travaux Publics SAS, Sir Robert McAlpine and VolkerFitzpatrick): Chiltern tunnels and Colne Valley viaduct.

EKFB JV (Eiffage Genie Civil SA, Kier Infrastructure & Overseas, BAM Nuttall, Ferrovial Agroman): North portal Chiltern tunnels to Brackley, and Brackley to south portal of Long Itchington Wood Green tunnel.

BBV JV (Balfour Beatty, Vinci Construction Grands Projets, Vinci Construction UK, Vinci Construction Terrassement): Long Itchington Wood Green tunnel to Delta junction and Birmingham spur, and Delta junction to west coast mainline tie-in (Handsacre junction).

BBVS JV (Balfour Beatty, Vinci, Systra): Old Oak Common Station.

Mace Dragados JV: Euston Station

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