The Government has confirmed that construction and design work can start on High Speed 2 (HS2) despite the current coronavirus lockdown.
The ‘notice to proceed’ process marks formal approval for main construction works to begin, following a decision earlier this year to proceed with the project.
HS2 will provide high-speed train routes linking London to cities including Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.
The construction and design work is worth a total of £12 billion in contracts through joint ventures and contractors (see below).
There had been a legal challenge brought by wildlife television presenter Chris Packham through lawyers Leigh Day for an injunction to halt construction, however the High Court decided it would not grant permission for a judicial review.
Packham has said he will now go to the Court of Appeal for permission to challenge the ruling.
Carol Day, solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, said: "Packham is seeking to argue that the High Court failed to properly address parts of his claim in relation to the loss of irreplaceable ancient woodlands and climate change.
"He believes that if the Government is determined to proceed, it must be on the basis of a full and proper understanding of the environmental impacts.
"Now more than ever it should be recognised that meeting our international environmental obligations has a vital part to play in protecting nature and human health."
HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson said that while the Government’s top priority is to combat the spread of coronavirus, it could not delay work on its long-term plan to "level up the country".
He said: “HS2 will be the spine of the country’s transport network, boosting capacity and connectivity while also rebalancing opportunity fairly across our towns and cities.”
Stephenson said the notice to proceed provides certainty for thousands of construction workers and businesses across the country.
The joint ventures and construction companies involved, and their areas of the route are as follows:
- SCS Railways (Skanska Construction UK Ltd, Costain Ltd, STRABAG AG) - £3.3bn (Working on: Euston Tunnels and Approaches, Northolt Tunnels
- Align JV (Bouygues Travaux Publics SAS, a subsidiary of Bouygues Construction, Sir Robert McAlpine and VolkerFitzpatrick, a subsidiary of VolkerWessels UK) - £1.6bn (Working on: Chiltern Tunnels and Colne Valley Viaduct
- EKFB JV (Eiffage Genie Civil SA, Kier Infrastructure and Overseas Ltd, BAM Nuttall, Ferrovial Agroman) - £2.3bn (Working on: North Portal Chiltern Tunnels to Brackley, Brackley to South Portal of Long Itchington Wood Green Tunnel
- BBV JV (Balfour Beatty Group Ltd, VINCI Construction Grands Projets, VINCI Construction UK Ltd, VINCI Construction Terrassement) - £4.8bn