The government has given its formal approval for construction to begin on HS2, bringing much needed good news to the construction industry.

HS2 Ltd, the public body tasked with overseeing the project, issued a ‘notice to proceed’ to the companies that will undertake construction of the railway.

Notice to proceed marks the formal approval for the project to begin the construction phase and HS2 Ltd is now entering Stage 2 of the main works civils contracts, with each held by a specific joint-venture.

HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson said: “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.

“Following the decision earlier this year to proceed with the project, this next step provides thousands of construction workers and businesses across the country with certainty at a time when they need it.”

Balfour Beatty, part of a joint venture involved in construction of HS2, welcomed the announcement and said preparatory works would commence imminently, with main construction beginning in the second quarter of 2021.

Read more

At construction peak, a workforce of over 8,000 will be involved in delivering the scheme.

Leo Quinn, Balfour Beatty group chief executive, said: “HS2 is a transformational infrastructure scheme, underpinning both the economic resilience and future growth of the nation, during these unprecedented and challenging times.

“Notice to proceed provides certainty for many businesses up and down the UK, and will drive investment in skills and capability for current and future generations.”

However, the GMB union warned that the safety of the workforce and supply chain must be the priority during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Eamon O'Hearn, GMB national officer, said: “Construction should be conditional on rigorous observation of social distancing, provision of personal protective equipment where required, individualised risk assessments for workers with underlying conditions, and mandatory dialogue between contractors of all levels and recognised unions.

“This is an extremely worrying time for everyone in the construction industry and GMB will be fighting HS2 workers' corner in the days and months ahead.”