Balfour Beatty will create new woods and wetlands as part of early environmental works on the route between the West Midlands and Crewe.
This is the first contract on HS2 Phase 2a following royal assent for this stage of the line in February 2021.
The 36-mile stretch of Phase 2a from Birmingham to Crewe is expected to open alongside the first section of the railway from Birmingham to London.
Supporting 200 jobs, the environmental works will take place at 82 sites running north from Fradley in Staffordshire and will include tree planting at more than 40 sites, more than 18 miles of new hedgerows, and 140 acres of new grassland meadows.
HS2 Ltd’s Phase 2a delivery director Colette Carroll said: “We said that we wanted to bring the benefits of HS2 to the north earlier than originally planned, and this early environmental works contract with Balfour Beatty on the new route to Crewe will put that promise into action."
Mark Bullock, chief executive of Balfour Beatty’s UK Construction Services business, said that his company was “committed to leaving a lasting positive legacy”. He said: “Our work on the route between Crewe and the West Midlands will build a better, greener future for everyone.”
Not everyone agrees. Friends of the Earth has called HS2 “a costly and damaging mistake which will threaten wildlife, destroy ancient woodlands and do nothing to reduce climate-wrecking pollution”.