Delays to the start of civils construction on phase one of HS2 will not affect its opening date, the boss of the £55.7bn project has told Construction News.
Speaking at the London Infrastructure Summit, chief executive Mark Thurston said HS2 still intended to open the London-to-Birmingham phase by the end of 2026, and that the delayed notice to proceed for the £6.8bn civils contracts would not affect this.
The government confirmed in July that HS2 had moved the notice-to-proceed date from 1 March to 1 June in order to “provide suppliers with additional time to optimise their designs”.
When asked by CN whether the change of date would have any impact on the overall programme, Mr Thurston said: “The notice to proceed was originally supposed to be spring next year, but we have moved that into the middle of 2019 and that has not had any impact on the overall end date.
“Our intent is to get the main works civils contractors away in the middle part of next year.
“That has always been our intent and we are still intending to open the line from London to Birmingham by the end of 2026 – that’s still the plan.”
The civils contracts are split into two phases: design and construction.
HS2 had initially aimed to have designs completed by the end of November this year, with the notice to proceed set for March 2019.
However, it has now set a deadline of February for designs to be completed and earmarked the notice to proceed for 1 June 2019.
Last month it was revealed that the opening of the £15.4bn Crossrail line would be delayed until autumn 2019, at least nine months later than the project’s original December 2018 opening date.
In a London Assembly meeting last week, assembly members criticised the time it took for the Crossrail management to tell them about the problems on the project.
Mr Thurston said that, as a major public client, it was important HS2 was honest about its programme timeline and gave notice of delays early.
He said: “Absolutely yes, it is our job to be totally transparent if there are issues on the programme.”
Yesterday HS2 released its skills strategy report looking at the number of workers needed to build the £55.7bn line.
The report said the programme would require up to 15,000 operatives when construction begins, which would grow to 30,000 at the peak of construction.
Currently there are an estimated 7,000 jobs supported by HS2, with 100 apprentices already working on the scheme.