Work on HS2 to go ahead despite the lockdown

The government says construction work on HS2 can begin despite the current Coronavirus lockdown measures. Ministers say the UK cannot afford any more delays to the high-speed rail project which is already behind schedule.

 

“While the government’s top priority is rightly to combat the spread of Coronavirus, protect the NHS and save lives, we cannot delay work on our long-term plan to level up the country.”

 – HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson

 

The Department for Transport says the decision will be a great boost to the sector, at a time when there’s major uncertainty because of COVID-19. HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson says it’ll “provide thousands of construction workers and businesses across the country with certainty at a time when they need it”. But not everyone agrees. The deputy director of the free-market Adam Smith Institute has called the announcement “tone-deaf” in light of the economic crisis caused by the global outbreak. Matthew Kilcoyne says “we need to get back on to a sustainable financial footing” and “can’t afford vanity projects like HS2”.

Firms involved in phase one construction will have to follow social distancing rules in line with guidance issued by Public Health England to contractors who’ve continued to work during the pandemic. The Department for Transport says a notice to proceed has been given to four joint ventures which will start work immediately. Some of the companies that have HS2 contracts are Costain, Balfour Beatty and Skanska Construction UK. Eamon O’Hearn, national officer at the GMB union which represents HS2 construction workers, says “the overriding priority” must be the safety of the workforce.

 

“The issuing of notice to proceed today ensures that our contractors and their supply chains have the confidence that they can commit to building HS2, generating thousands of skilled jobs across the country as we recover from the pandemic.”

 – Mark Thurston, chief executive of HS2 Ltd

 

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, gave the go ahead to the controversial project in February after a review found it could cost the country more than £100 billion. It’s hoped the high-speed rail project, which is set to link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, will help reduce carbon emissions which the government has promised to cut to zero by 2050. It’s also thought it’ll improve journey times, reduce passenger overcrowding, create jobs and rebalance the UK’s economy.

 

HS2 gets the green light from Boris Johnson

 

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Steve Clifford is Owner of Clifford Talbot Partnership which was formed in 1984 to provide solutions to energy and utility management issues in commerce, industry, government and the public sectors throughout the UK.