HS2 awards £300m of phase-two contracts despite uncertain future

HS2 has awarded £300m of ground investigation work for HS2 phase two, despite reports that the prime minister intends to scrap the rail line north of Birmingham.

Subsidiaries of Bam Nutall and Van Elle are among eight companies that have been appointed to a £215m framework to acquire geotechnical, hydrogeological and geoenvironmental data from along HS2’s phase-two route in the North West and West Midlands (see below for full contractor list).

Aecom, meanwhile, has been awarded an £85m contract to coordinate the ground-investigation works, which will involve excavation of exploratory holes and in-situ testing.

All of the suppliers have been handed eight-year deals, which extend until September 2031, according to newly published contract notices.

The contract awards come despite widespread national media reports that prime minister Rishi Sunak has decided to scrap the phase-two works from Birmingham to Manchester. Sunak reportedly held a cabinet meeting yesterday (3 October) at the Conservative Party Conference to ratify the decision.

Despite the speculation, Sunak told the BBC Breakfast programme on Tuesday (3 October) that he wss “not going to be forced into a premature decision”. It is not known whether Sunak intends to make an announcement on the future of HS2 at his party’s conference or before the Autumn Statement on 22 November.

“We shouldn’t be rushed into things like that,” Sundak said. “What people would expect from me is to take the time to go over it properly and make sure we make the right long-term decisions for the country.”

HS2 previously awarded Kier a £50m enabling-works contract to carry out highways work, utility diversions and environmental and other surveys along the 36-mile stretch of rail line proposed from Birmingham to Crewe, which makes up HS2 phase 2a.

However, HS2 is yet to award a £500m contract for the design and delivery of the Birmingham to Crewe line, despite naming three shortlisted bidders in October 2021. The bidders were an Aecom and Costain joint venture; an Atkins, Mace and Systra joint venture; and Jacobs.

HS2 phase two ground-investigation contracts

Lot 1 – Ground-investigation partner (£85m) 

Lot 2 – Ground-investigation contractors (£215m)

  • Bam Ritchies (part of Bam Nuttall)
  • Fugro Geoservices
  • Geotechnical Engineering
  • R P S Group
  • Socotec UK
  • Soil Engineering Geoservices
  • Strata Geotechnics (part of Van Elle)
  • Structural Soils

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