Department for Transport - HS2

In this article we discuss the implications of the Department for Transport's recent 'Notice to Proceed' on HS2 Phase One, HS2's four main civils contractors for Phase One, and what the future looks like for Phases 2a and 2b. Despite previous noises that the project may be abandoned or significantly cut back, signals now are that (in line with Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement in February) it is full steam ahead at least on phase One with significant contractual commitments entered into.

Notice to proceed - Phase One

You may have missed it amongst the flurry of other breaking news during the current COVID-19 pandemic, but on 15th April 2020 the Department for Transport issued HS2 with formal notice to proceed with the construction of HS2 Phase One (London to West Midlands).  This marks a significant step in the project, which has been over ten years in development and design.HS2 responded by signing off on the next phase in its four major civils contracts, worth around £12bn in total.  This means that works can now move on from scheme design and initial site preparatory works to detailed design and construction, creating thousands of jobs.The four main civils contractors are:

  1. BBV JV (Balfour Beatty and VINCI);
  2. SCS Railways (Skanska; Costain; and Strabag);
  3. EKFB JV (Eiffage; Kier; BAM Nuttall; and Ferrovial Agroman); and
  4. Align JV (Bouygues; Sir Robert McAlpine and VolkerFitzpatrick).

The Department for Transport also published (on 15 April 2020) the full business case for HS2 Phase One. Notwithstanding the current COVID-19 pandemic, construction works are expected to commence fully in the second quarter of 2021, with preparatory works starting imminently subject to compliance with UK guidance on safe working practices and social distancing facing the rest of the construction industry. 

What is the significance of the notice to proceed to future phases?

Phases 2a (Midlands to Crewe) and 2b (the full line to Leeds and Manchester) are still subject to further review by UK Government to seek to find ways to reduce costs and achieve better integration with our existing rail network.The recent Oakervee review concluded that the construction of the full HS2 network (Phase One, and Phases 2a and 2b) is needed to achieve the highest value for money economic return on investment, and that the construction of Phase One alone does not represent value for money.  The issue of the formal notice to proceed for Phase One can therefore be seen as a positive step towards the design and eventual construction of the future phases of the proposed new railway.The High Speed Rail (West Midlands to Crewe) Bill (for Phase 2a) is still proceeding through Parliament, although the routes for Phases 2a and 2b have previously been safeguarded by statutory directions to prevent conflicting development.

How can we help?

Our multi-disciplinary transport team has significant experience advising a broad range of stakeholders affected by the construction of HS2, including landowners, local authorities, and major utilities.We advise utilities and statutory undertakers on asset protection and monitoring arrangements for HS2 construction works, including asset diversions, contracting out of certain provisions of the overarching legislation and establishing alternative contractual arrangements where necessary, the protection and resilience of utilities networks, and statutory cost contributions required by utilities under the New Road and Street Works Act 1991 and the accompanying Street Works (Sharing of Costs of Works) (England) Regulations 2000.We also advise local authorities on coordinating infrastructure and development associated with proposed HS2 stations, as well as private landowners affected by the construction and operation of the railway, including compulsory acquisition, related compensation issues and Judicial Review.The issue of the Department for Transport's formal notice to proceed on the construction of HS2 Phase One is a huge step forward for the delivery of the project.  Whilst subject to further review and change, the notice to proceed on Phase One should be seen as a positive step towards the design and eventual construction of Phases 2a and 2b.If you are affected by the construction of Phase One or the proposed design and construction of Phases 2a and 2b and you would like to discuss, please get in touch.


The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.