European giants win big in UK high-speed rail

Major contractors from France, Sweden, and Austria have won places on £6.6bn worth of civil engineering contracts for the first phase of the UK’s High Speed 2 (HS2) rail line, set to run between London and Birmingham.

Only five UK-owned firms, including troubled Carillion, are among the nine making up consortiums appointed today to build bridges, tunnels, embankments and viaducts.

Announced by UK transport secretary Chris Grayling, the three packages are split into two stages: design and preliminary work, and full construction. Together they are worth a total of £6.6bn ($8.6bn).

The following consortiums have been awarded stage 1 contracts:

  • In Area South, the SCS team, made up of Skanska (Sweden), Costain (UK) and Strabag (Austria), has won the Euston Tunnels and Northolt Tunnels work.
  • In Area Central, the work on the Chiltern tunnels and Colne Valley Viaduct went to the Align team, comprising Bouygues Travaux Publics (France), VolkerFitzpatrick (Netherlands) and Sir Robert McAlpine (UK).
  • The North Portal Chiltern Tunnels to Brackley was won by CEK, which includes Carillion (UK), Eiffage Genie Civil (France) and Kier Infrastructure (UK). It will also handle the third central package, covering Brackley to Long Itchington Wood Green Tunnel.
  • In Area North the stretch between Long Itchington Wood Green Tunnel and Delta Junction, the Birmingham Spur and the Delta Junction to West Coast Main Line was won by BBV, a team made up of Balfour Beatty (UK) and Vinci Grands Projets (France).

Absent are any Chinese firms, despite the UK government having conducted a number of missions to China to persuade Chinese companies to bid for works and consider investing in the line.

Stage 2 of the works will commence in 2019. Grayling said in his statement that the civil works are expected to support 16,000 jobs and generate 7,000 contract opportunities, of which around 60% were expected to go to SMEs.

As well as the civils work, invitations to tender have been issued for the line’s main stations, at Euston, Old Oak Common and Birmingham. Last week, the invitations to tender for the station designs and for the role of Euston Master Development Partner were released to shortlisted bidders.

Grayling said: "The progress we are making with HS2 is clear evidence that the government is delivering on its commitments and is getting on with building the infrastructure needed to build a stronger, fairer, more prosperous Britain."

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, the minister disputed a study by quantity surveyor Michael Byng, released over the weekend, which estimated that the cost of HS2 could balloon to more than £100bn, making it the most expensive railway in the world. Grayling described the figure as "nonsense".

He added that later today the government would introduce a bill to enable the construction of Phase 2a of the line, from the West Midlands to Crewe, and would reveal the final routes of the Manchester and Leeds branches of HS2.

Image: Euston station will be revamped to provide HS2’s southern terminus (Creative Commons)

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  1. Why so many European contractors its British money which should be done by the likes of LOR Murphy and Kier

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