‘We think 2018 will be steady, but with HS2 it’s going to be much busier in 2019.’
It’s a familiar refrain from people working in civils when you ask them for their outlook on the market, whether they’re a tier one on an HS2 framework or a subcontractor hoping to pick up work.
The last week alone demonstrates the importance of the £55.7bn project to the future of this industry and the wider economy. Lendlease has added to its growing regeneration portfolio with the development partner role on the £4bn Euston overhaul.
That it beat the developers behind arguably the two most successful regeneration projects in London of recent times – Argent and Canary Wharf Group – will give it great satisfaction. Argent’s revamp of King’s Cross during the last 10 years and the transformation of Canary Wharf over the past three decades meant Lendlease must have made a compelling case.
It’s a welcome boost for the developer given the situation at Haringey, where its £2bn regeneration is under threat after council chief executive Claire Kober stood down in the face of Labour Party opposition to the scheme.
For Canary Wharf Group, it meant its contracting arm pulling out of a bid to deliver the £1.65bn HS2 station at Euston.
The group’s failed bid to become Euston developer had put paid to a rare foray outside Canary Wharf for the contracting arm, which will focus on its own estate – where work continues apace – as well as Southbank Place.
For Lendlease, the Euston role will cement its UK focus for years to come. At Euston, it will need to work with Camden Council and local opposition. The firm will be in the public eye and under more media scrutiny than any similar scheme in recent years, including the redevelopment of London Bridge, which generated plenty of adverse publicity despite its remarkable achievements.
Lendlease has had to deal with local opposition on schemes such as the multi-billion-pound regeneration of Elephant and Castle, and will have a responsibility to this industry and London to do the best possible job on what will be a historic and technically challenging scheme.
And the icing on the cake? The company will need to win over a new HS2 chairman. Sir David Higgins will step aside later this year, coincidentally at the same time as a replacement is being sought for Mark Carne at Network Rail.
HS2 continues to operate under the auspices of public scrutiny. This industry has a big role to play in ensuring politicians don’t lose their nerve on the £55.7bn rail line as construction ramps up.