Gov­ern­ment awards con­tracts worth £6.6bn on con­tro­ver­sial rail link

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS - by TOM HER­BERT tom.her­bert@trin­i­tymir­ Twit­ter: @TRHer­bert

THE gov­ern­ment has awarded con­tracts worth a to­tal of £6.6bil­lion to com­pa­nies to build HS2, in­clud­ing cri­sis-hit firm Car­il­lion.

The news came on the same day it was an­nounced that homes in York­shire will have to be knocked down to make way for the con­tro­ver­sial raill­way.

Con­struc­tion is ex­pected to be­gin next year on the London to Birm­ing­ham route, with work due to start on tun­nels, bridges, em­bank­ments and viaducts, cre­at­ing 16,000 jobs across the coun­try.

Trans­port sec­re­tary Chris Grayling said: “This is a hugely im­por­tant step and un­der­lines this gov­ern­ment’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to de­liver an econ­omy that works for all.

“HS2 will de­liver vi­tal links be­tween some of our coun­try’s big­gest cities and will help re­bal­ance our econ­omy.”

Last week Car­il­lion’s chief ex­ec­u­tive Richard How­son quit amid a profit warn­ing storm, which saw the com­pany’s shares plum­met and £600 mil­lion wiped from its mar­ket value.

On Mon­day, the gov­ern­ment’s pre­ferred route for Phase 2b of the line, from Birm­ing­ham to Leeds, was also con­firmed.

Six­teen homes on a hous­ing es­tate in Mexbor­ough, Doncaster, will be de­mol­ished to make way for HS2, but the Depart­ment for Trans­port (DfT) ad­mit­ted that their com­pen­sa­tion scheme for those res­i­dents af­fected may not be enough to buy a sim­i­lar house in the area.

The DfT said: “The par­tic­u­lar cir­cum­stance of the Shim­mer Es­tate de­vel­op­ment could mean that the statu­tory com­pen­sa­tion pack­age may not al­low home­own­ers to ac­quire a sim­i­lar prop­erty in the lo­cal area.”

Stop HS2 cam­paign man­ager Joe Rukin said: “It is ab­so­lutely un­be­liev­able, but symp­to­matic of the sheer ar­ro­gance dis­played when it comes to HS2, that the route has been cho­sen with­out even as­sess­ing the pub­lic’s re­sponses to the con­sul­ta­tion on that route.

“Last year, peo­ple thought they were be­ing en­gaged, they thought they were be­ing in­volved, they thought their opin­ions might be lis­tened to.

“Over the years, we have be­come used to ‘con­sult and ig­nore’ when it comes to HS2, but this takes mat­ters to a new low.”

Penny Gaines, chair­man of Stop HS2, said: “More en­vi­ron­men­tal destruction, more cost, but no new ideas – that’s what HS2 Phase 2b is.”

Ad­dress­ing Mr Grayling in the House of Com­mons, Che­sham and Amer­sham MP Ch­eryl Gil­lan said: “He has put a great deal of con­fi­dence in the con­trac­tors he an- nounced to­day, to which he is award­ing £6.6bn of tax­pay­ers’ money.

“Can he con­firm that he knew about all those mat­ters, that he has car­ried out due dili­gence on those com­pa­nies and that the tax­payer is not in re­al­ity car­ry­ing un­ac­cept­able risks on the con­struc­tion of HS2?”

She added in a state­ment: “One of the many doc­u­ments ac­com­pa­ny­ing these an­nounce- ments is ‘HS2 – Con­cept to Re­al­ity’ and there re­ally do need to be con­stant re­al­ity checks tak­ing place to pro­tect the tax­payer.

“If this project is go­ing to pro­ceed it must be car- ried out with pro­pri­ety and it is im­por­tant that con­trac­tors de­liver on time, on bud­get and with care and con­sid­er­a­tion for the com­mu­ni­ties through which the rail­way is be­ing driven.”

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