Government awards contracts worth £6.6bn on controversial rail link
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.”