HS2: Construction shake-up as main contractor changes

There is a reported shake-up in the construction of the UK’s new high-speed railway, HS2, which sees Align take over responsibility after many delays

A shake-up in construction of the central section of HS2’s phase one route from London to Birmingham will see the Align contracting joint venture take over responsibility for a stretch previously assigned to EKFB, it has been reported.

According to Construction Enquirer, the changes will involve a number of sites in the North Chilterns area of the UK where EKFB (Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial Construction and Bam Nuttall) was the main contractor.

Align is set to embark upon a joint venture with Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine and VolkerFitzpatrick to take over the sites during the next six months. This is being done to ensure construction continues on schedule.

Phase 1 of HS2 set for completion between 2029-2033

A spokesperson for HS2 Ltd said: “In order to streamline the delivery of the central section of HS2 we are rebalancing some responsibilities between two of our main works contractors.

“This will allow us to capitalise on the capabilities that Align has built during the delivery of the Chiltern Tunnel, and allow EKFB to focus on the core section of the route that needs to be complete in order to start testing and commissioning.”

There is limited information as to how the replacement of EKFB on parts of HS2 will affect the timeline of the project as a whole. The first phase of HS2 is under construction in stages and due for completion between 2029 and 2033, depending on approval for later stages. The project is also aiming to save an estimated 7,433 tonnes of embodied carbon within materials.

HS2 said it was “rebalancing” responsibilities on the line in efforts to streamline the central section of the railway, which has been hit by severe delays and construction cost increases in the past year.

Costs for the central London terminus at Euston, which was being built by Mace and Dragados, rose from £1.3bn (US$1.63bn) to nearly £5bn (US$6.25bn) before the UK government delayed construction in March 2023.

In 2010, HS2 was expected to cost £33bn (US$41.2bn) in total, but this figure has now reached heights of an estimated £71bn (US$88.6bn).

Recently, on 1st June 2023, leaders in London and Manchester came together to call on the government to work together with stakeholders to deliver the best form of HS2 possible. The Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, along with others, have written to Transport Secretary Mark Harper to urge him to listen to local leaders.

According to the BBC, the letter outlines the importance of ensuring that HS2 connects with a London terminus at Euston, rather than being built six miles outside the city centre.

It also calls for a Manchester Piccadilly underground station that supports Northern Powerhouse Rail in full.

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