Business leaders in Greater Birmingham have hailed another huge step forward for the HS2 project after the award of £6.6bn worth of contracts was announced.
The huge infrastructure investment covers the main civil engineering work on the first phase of HS2 between London and Birmingham – including construction of tunnels, bridges, embankments and viaducts and will support 16,000 jobs across the country.
Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Today’s announcements from the Transport Secretary are, first and foremost, important reinforcements of the government's commitment to the transformational HS2 project.
“With the West Midlands at the heart of the HS2 network, its effects and the huge opportunities it brings are already becoming apparent across the region.
"Not only are property developers already making their moves, but we’re working closely with our businesses to ensure they are ready to benefit from the contracts awarded today to the winning consortia.
"The confirmation that the West Midlands will be brought closer to key cities in the north thanks to today’s news about Phase 2 of the project will further strengthen the region’s connectivity offer, creating a huge economic boost.
“It is vital as a region that we work hard to ensure the investment has the maximum benefit locally, not just for businesses but for our people through projects like the National College for High Speed Rail.”
Steve Hollis, chairman of GBSLEP, commented: "Today’s announcements are important steps forward for HS2 and for Greater Birmingham & Solihull.
"The additional capacity and improved connections with London delivered by Phase 1 are important for our economy, but Phase 2 and the full “Y-network” that connects us with the major cities in the north is the real game-changer.
"Following on from February’s High Speed Rail Act (London – West Midlands) 2017, it’s great to keep the momentum behind this hugely important investment and provide as much certainty for businesses and communities as possible.
"Here in the West Midlands, we are working with our neighbouring LEPs and the combined authority to deliver our £4.4bn Midlands HS2 Growth Strategy, which sets out how we will ensure that HS2 will benefit our businesses, our people and our places.
"In particular, we look forward to supporting as many of our businesses as possible to work with the major suppliers who have been successful in bidding for the £6.6bn of contracts announced earlier today."
Following the announcement of the successful main civils works contractors, the National College for High Speed Rail has also announced that it remains on track to open its doors this September.
Clair Mowbray, chief executive of the National College for High Speed Rail, said: “We’re delighted that suppliers for the next phase of HS2 have been confirmed.
"We look forward to working with the successful contractors, Align, CEK, BBV and SCS to help solve the skills gap in the rail industry.
"While we are in discussions with these suppliers, we are excited about expanding and cementing these relationships, and also working with them to develop relationships with their supply chains as they develop.
“We particularly look forward to progressing talks on how the National College can work with these joint ventures, and their supply chain to train the workforce they will need to deliver this hugely exciting project.”
Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce chief executive Paul Faulkner also welcomed the news. He said: “It’s great to see the main works civil contracts being awarded for Phase One of the project.
“Not only will construction of the project start on time, it will also create a raft of new jobs and supply chain opportunities for our local firms.
“We also welcome the news that the final routes for the Leeds and Manchester branches are due to be announced today.
“It means that Phase Two of the project will embed Birmingham at the heart of a modern and innovative transport network which will help rebalance the national economy and bring greater prosperity to the region as a whole.
“On a wider point, the news will only add to the air of confidence that we are seeing in the region at the moment. We will be analysing this and other key trends at our Q2 Quarterly Business Report launch event on 18 July, focusing on investment in Greater Birmingham.”
The East Midlands is also set to benefit massively from the investment with the HS2 running through North East Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. The region’s biggest business-representation organisation is calling for action to maximise the potential benefit of the service.
Scott Knowles, chief executive at East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire), said: “The Eastern Leg of HS2 will be transformational for the region. It has the potential to unlock economic benefits of more than £4bn for the East Midlands and parts of Yorkshire.
“It’s not about faster train times it's about capacity and connecting the East Midlands to a first-class UK- and Europe-wide rail network that will make the region a more attractive place for inward investment and bring new opportunities for local firms.
“There must be investment now across the region to ensure seamless interconnectivity along the route. Our cities and major towns must have quick, practical and direct connection with HS2 if they are to maximise its potential and avoid being marginalised by poor connectivity.”