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The formal start of construction of HS2 has begun, with contractors saying the work heralds a “jobs boom”.

The move to full construction was described by the government as a “shovels in the ground” moment and marks the start of one of the biggest infrastructure projects ever undertaken.

Having received Notice to Proceed earlier this year, Balfour Beatty, part of a joint venture involved in construction of the high speed rail link, said it would become one of the biggest recruiters in the West Midlands over the next two years, with up to 7,000 skilled jobs required.

In addition, the joint venture will employ a workforce of approximately 1,400 to support the construction of the Old Oak Common Station in London.

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HS2 Ltd, the public body tasked with overseeing the project, has previously revealed that at least 500 tippers may be needed full-time during the peak of its construction, which will likely be in the summers of 2021 and 2022.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said HS2 construction would “fire up economic growth”.

He said: “HS2 is at the heart of our plans to build back better – and with construction now formally underway, it’s set to create around 22,000 new jobs.

“As the spine of our country’s transport network, the project will be vital in boosting connectivity between our towns and cities.”

Michael Dyke, Balfour Beatty MD, said: “HS2 presents a significant opportunity for the West Midlands, with comprehensive plans to attract and retain the talented workforce required to deliver one of the most ambitious infrastructure schemes ever delivered in the UK now underway.”