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HS2 attracts companies that have never worked in UK

The £43bn High Speed 2 project is attracting companies that have never worked in the UK, its promoter has revealed.

Companies with no UK experience are expressing interest in the working on High Speed 2 (HS2), its promoter HS2 Ltd said last week .

HS2 Ltd commercial director Beth West said new entrants to the market were eyeing packages of work on the rapid rail link.

Fresh details of how nine £1bn design and build contracts will be procured is expected within months.

HS2 Ltd started direct conversations with potential suppliers after holding open events last autumn.

West told NCE this week: “There are joint ventures that have formed. It is the type of competition we were looking for. There are some new entrants to the UK market, which is good as they bring experience from overseas.

“Work in the UK is interesting to people and that is a good sign for the UK economy. Companies that have not worked in the UK before are interested, as are the usual UK companies.”

Last autumn HS2 Ltd said it expected to draw up two frameworks of prequalified firms before issuing invitations to tender for individual tunnelling, surface route and station deals.

But West said last week that this process was not yet fixed.

“We are still working on the procurement schedule at the moment,” she said. “Prequalification documents are likely to be issued in the fourth quarter of 2015. That will be the start of the process and we should have [frameworks in place] by early 2016.

“We are looking at how the process will work. It is evolving. As we get through the detail, and look at what else is going on in the market, we have to be responsive. It is something that takes a lot of thought.”

Shortening the time between bid submissions and work on site is a key consideration for the promoter, said West.

“We want the people working on the bids to be working on the project, so we don’t want to keep people hanging around and have people leave. We want a snappy procurement process.”

The project promoter is currently spending its time talking to suppliers, fine tuning designs and working on documentation.

“This is the work we need to do ahead of releasing the materials,” said West.

More definite plans are expected to be revealed relatively soon.

“We will have more detail in the coming months, and will have direct conversations with suppliers,” said West.

“We want to be a collaborative client, and we have really good dialogue. Suppliers have really engaged with us.”

Construction companies will be encouraged to share their plans with each other so effective workload distribution is maximised.

“We want companies to be collaborative with us and also with each other. We have a big programme and we want people to share ideas from the outset,” said West.

“Different companies have different strengths so we expect them to have different interests and to be open with each other.

“We want companies to work together for the benefit of the programme. We will measure behaviour.”

HS2 last week named nine firms who will compete for 92 ground investigation works packages on phase one of the project.

These mini-competitions will begin in the spring, and the framework announcement marks the beginning of construction procurement for the proposed project.

The hybrid bill to allow construction of the phase one of HS2 is at committee stage and anticipated to gain Royal Assent in late 2016. Construction could begin in 2018.

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