Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has kick-started the bidding process for phase one of the UK governments HS2 rail project at an event in Chengdu, China, during his five day tour of the country.
HS2 is a major part of the government’s plan to rebalance the UK economy and create a Northern Powerhouse by providing high speed rail services from London to the Midlands and the North, which is expected to cut the travel time between London and Birmingham down from 1 hour 21 minutes, to 49 minutes. Phase 1 construction is due to start in 2017, following Royal Assent of the Phase 1 Hybrid Bill which is currently being considered by Parliament.
Construction of HS2 is expected to create 25,000 jobs and once the service is up and running, it will create around 3,000 jobs opportunities.
Osborne revealed on Thursday that at least seven new contracts will be opened up to companies, with a total combined value of GBP11.8bn. The announcement was aimed tempting Chinese firms to invest in the project, as well as other major UK infrastructure projects. The Chancellor also revealed that a new ‘HS2 partnering day’ will be held between British and Chinese firms to explore joining up on bids for contracts, as well as launching the Northern Powerhouse pitch book.
The Chancellor is also inviting Chinese firms to participate in the HS2 skills college, which is due to open in 2017. The government anticipates that a skills-swap programme would allow the UK to benefit from China’s expertise as a world leader on High Speed? Rail, as well as help investors from China to better understand the UK market.
Speaking while travelling on part of China’s vast network of high speed railways, Osborne stated: “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 £11.8 billion, 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 added:
“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.”