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Exclusive | Front-runners for HS2 civils contracts revealed

Colne Valley Viaduct

High Speed 2 promoter HS2 Ltd is finalising its civils contractors ahead of an announcement in July with some major casualties expected, New Civil Engineer understands.

Up to four of the eight bidding teams are set to lose out as HS2 Ltd favours established JVs and teams featuring French high speed expertise.

The SCS team of Skanska, Costain and Austrian tunneller Strabag is understood to have been told it is favoured for the two southernmost sections: the £600M to £900M Euston tunnels and approaches contract (lot S1) and the £850M to £1.4bn Northholt tunnels contract (lot S2).

Skanska and Costain is an established and proven JV, having worked together on the hugely successful £220M London Power tunnels and four Crossrail contracts and is now delivering two of three contracts on the £1.8bn A14 upgrade.

Significantly, Skanska and Costain are also already at work on the southern section, having landed the £300M enabling works contract for this section in November last year. The contract covers archaeological investigations, site clearance and setting up construction compounds ahead of the start of the main civil engineering work and will have given the JV a good insight into the challenges to be faced during the major civils works.

At the time Costain chief executive Andrew Wyllie said his firm had been selected as a “trusted partner” by HS2, for its “commitment to taking a collaborative approach to large-scale projects, minimising disruption and delivering a best in class outcome for rail users.”

SCS has also reached the final shortlist for the £800M to £1.3bn Chilterns Tunnels and Colne Valley Viaduct (lot C1), considered by many to be the flagship section, featuring as it does HS2’s only significant above-ground structure. It is also considered the most technically-challenging tunnel section.

But to award three contracts to one bid team would break HS2’s self-imposed rule on awarding no more than two contracts to any one bidder and it is understood to be HS2’s preference to award this contract to the Align Joint Venture of Bouygues, Volker Fitzpatrick and Sir Robert McAlpine.

This team brings with it some of the most recent European high speed expertise, with French giant Bouygues in the final stages of construction on the Nimes to Montpelier high speed line.

Another French-led JV set to do well is the CEK team of Carillion, French giant Eiffage and Kier. Eiffage, like Bouygues, is also in the final throes of construction on a high speed line, this time the Bretagne-Pays de la Loire line.

It is shortlisted in both southern lots against SCS. It is understood that if lots S1 and S2 are awarded, as expected, to SCS then CEK will pick up two central section lots – the £800M to £1.3bn Chiltern Tunnels to Brackley contract (Lot (C2) and the £600M to £900M Brackley to Long Itchington Wood Green Tunnel South Portal contract (lot C3).

Also in the running for lot C2 is the BBV team of Balfour Beatty, Vinci and Swiss tunneller BeMo, while Align and the Bechtel-only Catalyst team were shortlisted for C3 and remain in the running.

BBV is another JV with current French high speed expertise, with Vinci having recently completed the Tours-Bordeaux line. It is understood HS2 is keen to find it a contract and is currently deciding whether to award BBV C2 and/or one or both of the northern lots - the £900M to £1.5bn section from Long Itchington to Delta Junction and on to Birmingham (lot N1) and the £800M to £1.3bn section from Delta Junction to the West Coast Main Line connection (lot N2).

In both cases it is vying with the Fusion team of Morgan Sindall, Bam Nuttall and Ferrovial and, in the case of lot N1, the LFM team of Laing O’Rourke, FCC and Murphy.

It is understood HS2 Ltd is still to make its decision, with more interviews with the teams planned. Sources close to the bid teams are expecting BBV and Fusion to be awarded one northern lot each, although there remains hope for LFM.

If all contracts were awarded as expected it would mean a clean sweep for JVs containing French contracting giants with high speed expertise but a near wipeout for JVs featuring Spanish contractors with similar high speed credentials.

The Momentum Infrastructure team of Dragados, Hochtief and Galliford Try and the ASL team of Acciona, John Sisk and Lagan are understood to be out of the running.

A spokesman for the Momentum JV said only that it was still “awaiting the announcement of the HS2 main works civils contracts, due this summer”.

HS2 Ltd said it could not comment but it is expected that contracts will be formally award after the General Election. It is understood however that HS2 Ltd has told favoured bidders of its intentions to give them the contracts.


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