Construction of the HS2 high-speed rail line has formally begun. The line is expected to connect London to the West Midlands and will create approximately 22,000 new jobs as claimed by the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. The PM was expected to attend a ceremonial launch of the first shovels in the ground for the main civil engineering contracts. The contracts to build the first phase of the line, including viaducts, tunnels, and stations at Euston and Old Oak Common, were signed off by the Treasury during the lockdown, after the government approved the controversial US $141bn project in February. The company HS2 Ltd said most of the work to date had been preparatory, including design, ground clearance, and demolition.
Johnson, who briefly threw the project in doubt when becoming PM, after promising a review amid increasing the concerns over escalating costs, said HS2 was “at the heart of our plans to build back better”, and would create 22,000 construction jobs. He added: “HS2 will fire up economic growth and help to rebalance opportunity across this country for years to come.” HS2’s main works contractor for the West Midlands, a Balfour Beatty-Vinci joint venture, expects to be one of the biggest recruiters in the region over the next two years, looking for up to 7,000 skilled workers.
Contracts to build stations, tunnels and viaducts will produce another 10,000 vacancies in greater London, HS2 said. The first phase of the line, linking London and Birmingham, is expected to cost up to £45bn, according to the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd’s estimates, with full services now expected to begin running from Euston as late as 2036, although first high-speed trains might appear by 2029. The eventual completion of the second phase, completing a Y-shaped network to Manchester and Leeds, remains in some doubt.