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HS2 insists work set for 2018 start will begin as planned despite two-year delay forecast

Exclusive: High Speed 2 has insisted that civils work on the £42.6bn rail programme will start on time in 2018 despite a respected industry forecast that it would be delayed by at least two years.

HS2 reacted to the Construction Products Association’s prediction that work would not begin on the civils packages until 2020 by saying it was “confident that there would be spades in the ground by 2017”, with main civils work to begin by 2018.

Last week, the CPA released its summer industry forecast, in which it said it did not anticipate main civil works beginning for at least five years due to “concerns regarding planning and financing”.

CPA economics director Noble Francis told Construction News that while “theoretically, initial works would start in 2017/18, it would still take a couple of years before main civils work could begin”.

Dr Francis added: “When you look at major rail infrastructure, there is usually a significant period of time before projects get off the ground.

“Thameslink was originally the Thameslink 2000, Crossrail was given the green light in 1990.

“You won’t see those sort of delays to this project, but when we are talking about major infrastructure, we as forecasters have to forecast a degree later than officially stated.”

Dr Francis said he saw “planning practicalities” as “the primary reason” for a potential setback, with local people affected by HS2 also potentially causing “delays through appeals”.

In response, HS2 said that, after a successful second reading of the HS2 hybrid bill last year, it did not foresee planning problems altering its start time.

An HS2 spokesman said: “Successful planning is the key to most major projects remaining on schedule.

“Following a resounding backing from parliament at the second reading of the hybrid bill for HS2 phase one, we remain confident that the main construction of HS2 will start in 2017, with civils work to begin in 2018.”HS2 has been addressing local concerns through the parliamentary process, with more than 500 petitions having been heard by the hybrid bill select committee.

This week, the committee approved an amendment to the bill to allow the extension of the South Heath tunnel in Buckinghamshire to reduce noise and disruption to residents.

The forecast from the CPA came a week after Construction News revealed the full list of JVs that would be bidding for the main civils work on the line.

The eight JVs, featuring a total of 23 contractors, will enter the procurement process for the main civils work, which HS2 confirmed was still set to start in autumn.

The spokesman added: “Substantive design work, surveying and ground investigations along the entire route of HS2 phase one are already under way and, following on from extensive industry communication and supply chain engagement work, we plan to start the procurement process for civils contracts this autumn.”

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