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HS2 developer sets out procurement plans

The company set up to deliver the new national high speed railway will contract for up to 20 'packages' of work as part of its procurement plans for the first section of the line, it has announced.07 Nov 2013

Speaking at a supply chain conference organised by HS2 Ltd the company's commercial director, Beth West, set out its plans for £17.16 billion spending on the initial London to Birmingham phase of the route.

HS2 Ltd is currently consulting on its procurement strategy for the route, with a view to confirming it at a second conference in May, according to infrastructure law expert Patrick Twist of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind, who attended the conference.

"HS2 Ltd has said that it plans to introduce must more collaborative working to cut costs, but it does not yet have a clear idea of how they are going to do this," he said. "Conference attendees from the supply chain expressed concerns that unless HS2 Ltd can change its approach, 'tier one' contractors will dominate the procurement process and efficiencies will be lost."

Earlier this week, the Government announced that the new head of HS2 Ltd has been asked to report on how to deliver the project earlier and for a lower cost. Sir David Higgins, current chief executive of Network Rail and former head of the Olympic Delivery Authority, will report his findings to the Transport Secretary before the second reading of the Hybrid Bill in March.

According to the procurement strategy set out by West, HS2 Ltd intends to split tunnelling and construction of the surface route into separate packages. There will be four main packages of tunnelling works, with a combined value of £2.9bn, geographically based with interfaces determined by tunnel type and construction methodology. The surface works will be split into between three and six main packages, geographically based with interfaces taking into account engineering issues, and are valued at £2.7bn.

Most of the construction packages, which also include £2.6bn worth of stations and four to six route-wide railway systems packages, will be procured through the Early Contractor Involvement model. Under this model, a contractor and design team are appointed on a two-stage contract, with a break point between the two stages. The programme as set out by West also includes enabling works, valued at £600 million; and £350m worth of design services.

Bidders for the packages will be scored against a number of criteria, with a particular focus on regional economic stimulation, according to West. Criteria set out in her presentation included opportunities for training and apprentices; local employment; planned engagement with local businesses; opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses; and "community enrichment".

Successful bidders would also be expected to demonstrate regular engagement with their supply chain and an ability to work collaboratively, according to West. The use of building information modelling (BIM) and modern, off-site and pre-fabricated methods of construction would be expected.

The initial London to Birmingham section of HS2 is currently scheduled for completion in 2026 and will cut journey times between the two cities to 45 minutes, according to the Department for Transport. A proposed second phase of the project envisages the construction of an onward 'y network' connecting the line to Manchester and Leeds, as well as to Heathrow Airport, by 2033.