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Author: Caroline Lockyer - Glenigan civil engineering expert

Following six weeks of fierce campaigning from the main candidates, the Conservative Party defied predictions to take a majority victory in the General Election on Thursday.

In the weeks leading up to polling day, construction-specific issues were given centre stage as they were debated at length by the parties in a bid to win public approval. Policies ranging from housing and energy to infrastructure hit the headlines – including the ongoing saga of HS2. 

"A billion pound blow for Crewe" is how George Osborne summed up the prospect of a Labour/SNP coalition when he and Prime Minister David Cameron visited South Cheshire last month.Newsletter_Infrastructure_May-15

The Conservatives claimed the Scottish National Party would have little interest in building a high-speed railway station in Crewe - a project which has been championed as a huge economic boost for the town and its surrounding area. In fact, Nicola Sturgeon’s party expressed support for HS2 in their manifesto, calling for it to connect to Scotland as a “priority” with a link between Glasgow, Edinburgh and the north of England.

With the exception of UKIP and the Green Party, the main parties all support HS2 and this backing should enable the project to complete its Parliamentary process. However, with the Conservatives holding a wafer thin majority and facing potential rebellion from backbench MPs, how will this impact HS2 and other large infrastructure projects?

For the uninitiated, the HS2 high speed railway is set to link eight of Britain’s 10 largest cities and, according to the government, will serve 1 in 5 of the UK population. 

It will be constructed in two phases: the first phase will link London Euston with a new station at Birmingham Curzon Street and will include a station at Old Oak Common in west London and another near Birmingham Airport. For the second phase, the route will divide into two lines, one to Manchester Piccadilly via Crewe and Manchester Airport, and the other to Leeds via the East Midlands and Sheffield Meadowhall.

The project is being developed by High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd, a company limited by guarantee established by the UK Government. The initial concept of the scheme was reported in early 2007 by Glenigan, who have tracked additional contracts due to Act of Parliament requirements. Professional service frameworks are currently being set up, alongside preliminary design works and, more recently, a £900 million enabling works contract. The latter contract (Glenigan Project ID: 15088988) will be split into further area specific packages (North, South and Central) for phase 1 (Glenigan Project ID: 07309143).

It was announced in the 2013 Queen’s speech that legislation will be introduced to enable the building of the railway line. The High Speed Two hybrid Bill is currently proceeding through Parliament, with the register of undertakings and assurances updated in March. On becoming an act, the bill will give the government planning permission to deliver the scheme, including the powers to acquire the necessary land and undertake the works required.

However, those opposed to the scheme argue that it is not viable, citing excessive costs and uncertain benefits. Conservation groups also oppose plans for `habitat and species relocations’ and `demolition of buildings and other structures’. An investigation published by the Independent on Sunday in February 2013 claimed that 350 wildlife sites would be destroyed by the new HS2 line. A separate investigation, published in March 2013, suggested that the project was unlikely to keep within its £33 billion budget.

So, is this proposal needlessly expensive? How viable is a project that is to cost billions? Many close to the project geographically view it as a complete invasion of their landscape, while others believe it will transform UK rail travel and create a plethora of jobs while works are carried out.

Whatever your view about HS2, it is an argument which is set to play a big part in the future of the UK infrastructure sector – an issue the Conservative government and Opposition will be debating into the new Parliament and beyond.

For further information about civil engineering projects, contact Caroline Lockyer at Glenigan on 01202 786723. 

Do you think HS2 will benefit the whole of the UK or should the government invest in other areas of infrastructure? Let us know your views using the share buttons below.

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