Spades will hit the ground on schedule this spring, the Department for Transport said.
HS2 is expected to create around 25,000 jobs during construction. The first phase, between London and Birmingham is expected to take eight years to complete at a budget of £19.4bn (2011 prices). Enabling legislation for phase 2, north of Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, has yet to enter parliament.
There are three enabling works contracts at the front end of HS2 phase 1, each worth more than £300m: CS JV (Costain, Skanska) has the southern section nearest to London; Fusion JV (Morgan Sindall, BAM Nuttall and Ferrovial Agroman) has the central section; and LM JV (Laing O'Rourke Construction, J Murphy & Sons) has the northern stretch, up to Birmingham.
Enactment of the legislation follows more than three years of parliamentary scrutiny of the plans. The High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) hybrid Bill – essentially the planning application for HS2 – received overwhelming support from MPs. In the Bill’s third reading in the House of Commons MPs voted 399 to 42 in favour. In the Lords, the figures were 386 to 26 in support of the Bill passing.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “Getting the go-ahead to start building HS2 is a massive boost to the UK’s future economic prosperity and a further clear signal that Britain is open for business.
“HS2 will be the world’s most advanced passenger railway and the backbone of our rail network. Royal Assent is a major step towards significantly increasing capacity on our congested railways for both passengers and freight; improving connections between the biggest cities and regions; generating jobs, skills and economic growth and helping build an economy that works for all.
“By investing in infrastructure the government is seizing the opportunity provided by leaving the EU to build a more global Britain. We will now press ahead with constructing the railway while continuing to ensure affected communities get appropriate support and are treated with fairness, compassion and respect.
HS2 chairman David Higgins added: “Achieving Royal Assent for Phase One of HS2 between Birmingham and London with such significant parliamentary support, is a monumental step in transforming rail travel in Britain. We have a long journey ahead of us to build the railway and secure permission for Phase Two to make sure that the full benefits of HS2 are realised. This journey will see businesses right along the route benefit from greater access to the skills, markets and professional services they need to succeed in today’s global market. It will directly create some 25,000 jobs as well as forcing the pace of innovation in the construction industry.
“Throughout this process HS2 remains committed to mitigating the environmental impacts whilst continuing to engage with each individual community which is making sacrifices to enable a 21st century railway network to be built in Britain.”