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Queen's Speech: Spreading the HS2 love

“Longest day of the year… thinnest Queen’s Speech in years.”

That was the review of the events in the House of Lords today from the Sun’s parliamentary correspondent Harry Cole.

In truth, the speech had very little for the construction industry to get too excited about.

Pledges on space ports are interesting to the star-gazing construction dreamer but of little consequence to the companies that are looking for pipeline of projects here and now.

Much of the response to the speech was as much about what was left out as it was about what was left in.

Crossrail 2, Heathrow and Northern Powerhouse Rail were all identified from those in the industry as infrastructure projects that were worth a mention.

Nevertheless, there was one thing the construction fraternity to get excited about.

Without a majority in parliament, Mrs May is hamstrung in many ways on what legislation she can push through.

On big infrastructure bills, it is only those projects that have resounding cross-party support that were likely to see the light of day today.

Step forward HS2.

The High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill put forward paves the way for the hybrid bill process to start on the phase 2b of the line from Birmingham to Crewe.

This process is expected to take a lot less time than the three years it took to give phase one of the line royal assent.

It is a significant step for the construction industry.

This part of the line offers more than £3.5bn of work across a number of civils and enabling packages.

In 2015, HS2 announced the companies that had passed the PQQ stage when bidding for the £8.6bn phase one civils packages would automatically be shortlisted for the phase 2a packages.

HS2 has confirmed that it still has the option to do that and could run a mini-bidding process for phase one JVs for this part of the project.

Not only would this move be key in speeding up the procurement process for phase 2a, it could also be crucial in spreading the HS2 civils work around, too.

With a handful of the joint ventures expected to miss out on any of the phase one civils packages next month, handing civils packages to Crewe to those that miss out on phase one might be the carrot on the stick to keep these firms interested.

And that could be a smart move by HS2.

With phase 2b of the line, from Crewe to Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds, requiring enabling and civils works to the scale never seen before in this country, it will be all hands on deck.

And HS2 will need as many skilled teams as possible to finish the job, on time and on budget.

Having as many firms as possible involved in the first round of HS2 construction on phase one and phase 2a of the line could be key to ensuring that.

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