Sir David Higgins has stressed that speeding up construction of HS2 by three years will deliver greater certainty for contractors.
Speaking to Construction News at the launch of his report HS2 Plus, Sir David said: “We are giving greater certainty for the supply chain because [they will have] line of sight of what will be 15 years of construction work.
“That’s the whole reason we are doing this; to save costs and give industry the certainty that contracts are going to happen.”
Sir David, who became HS2 chairman in January, called for ministers to start work on the project’s northern links to Manchester and Leeds as soon as possible and insisted both phases should be completed by 2030, three years earlier than first planned.
He dismissed the idea that speeding up construction would result in contractors taking on more risk and stressed that three years of inflationary pressures and overheads would be saved.
He told Construction News: “There is no implication that we are trying to push the industry to taking greater risk.”
Under current plans, work on phase one of HS2 between London and Birmingham, is scheduled to start in 2017 and will open in 2026.
Phase two, split into an eastern and western leg to Manchester and Leeds, is not scheduled to open until 2032 or 2033.
Under Sir David’s proposals, the first phase would be extended by 43 miles further north than originally planned, to a new transport hub in Crewe.
Sir David said the £21.4bn allocated for phase one, with £3bn for trains (including contingency) was enough to deliver the project.
He said he has “resisted temptation ” to reduce the large contingency contained in the budget due to uncertainty around the projects legislative timetable, and added that the same approach should be taken for the second phase of the project.
Chancellor, George Osborne said Sir David’s proposals would deliver huge benefits to the north, six years earlier than planned through the new hub at Crewe.
He added: “I welcome and support this, and that’s why we have asked HS2 Ltd to work up firm proposals for his recommendations. I also support the proposal for significant regeneration of Camden through a proper redevelopment of Euston station, something I said recently was worth doing.
“As Sir David says, HS2 is essential to the future of this country and will help fulfil the government’s long term plans to create a balanced and more competitive economy across the UK. But we must be conscious of the price, and there will be no increases to the overall spending envelope set for HS2 at the last spendingreview.”
Sir David said he was concentrating on taking the project forward into its delivery phase and highlighted the announcement of current Network Rail boss Simon Kirby as HS2 chief executive in June.
Speaking to Construction News this morning, Simon Kirby said Sir David’s report was “sensible and pragmatic” and increased confidence that HS2 could be delivered within budget.
On delivery he said: “My focus is creating a company that will deliver High Speed 2, putting the right governance in place and getting the right systems and people to take the project from the parliamentary process out and engage with the market and deliver the project.
“I start in June, one of the first things I want to do is really engage with the market, understand the market views on the procurement work that’s being done.”
He added: “My intent is really to listen to the market. I think HS2 is a really fantastic way to change the way we deliver infrastructure and really build on some of the things that people have talked about on major infrastructure programmes. So, I’m really keen to understand different views on that and come up with a procurement strategy that enables that to happen.”
Sir David said that while political certainty was central to the success of HS2, he was not concerned about the hybrid bill for the first phase of the project, which would secure powers to build and maintain the project, becoming legislation before the next election.
Labour councillor and Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese was confident the project had cross-party support.
However, he echoed comments from shadow chancellor Ed Balls heard in recent months and told Construction News HS2 would not be “at any cost”.
CECA director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner said: “CECA believes that proposals for a more substantial redevelopment of Euston station better reflect the ambition of the project to become one of the nation’s major transport hubs.
“However, HS2 must not be built at the expense of other projects. Instead, it should be seen as a foundational to the diverse portfolio of transport and energy projects we will need to construct if we our national infrastructure is to meet the demands of the 21st century. For this reason we welcome Sir David Higgins’ demand for additional focus on delivering wider transport in the North, above and beyond those provided by HS2.”