With picks and shovels about to hit the ground this spring to start HS2, the Government has announced plans to recruit a company to design and build a new high-speed train fleet for what will become the premier railway in the UK.

Says Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, ‘Launching the hunt for a manufacturer of these trains is a major step towards Britain getting a new railway which will carry over 300,000 people a day, improve connections between our great cities, generate jobs, and help us build an economy that works for all.’

With Royal Assent for the Phase One hybrid bill expected shortly and building work due to start on the Birmingham to London section of HS2 in the spring, 2017 will see HS2 – Europe’s largest infrastructure project – move from planning to construction. The contract will be awarded in 2019 with the winning bidders going on to deliver a brand new fleet of up to 60 trains which will provide services capable of seating more than 1,000 passengers.

The successful bidder will maintain its fleet at a new dedicated traction and rolling stock depot planned for Washwood Heath in Birmingham. The site will also be home to the HS2 Network Control Centre.

Third time around

The HS2 hybrid bill is to return to the Commons for what could be its final reading, having come through the House of Lords with only minor changes.

During what was its third reading on 31 January, the Lords voted overwhelmingly in favour of passing the bill.

The Lords voted against two proposed amendments. The first was to review the benefits of the station at Old Oak Common. Another considered drawing up plans to limit lorry traffic around construction sites.

The third reading in the Lords is described as an opportunity to ‘tidy up’. The next stage will see the Commons consider the amendments tabled by the second House and, if accepted, Royal Assent will follow. No date has been set for this hearing but it is hoped to be during February.

In theory, if the Commons weren’t to accept the changes, the bill would have to return to the Lords. This process would continue until both houses agree on the wording of the bill – a process referred to as Ping Pong, but neither the DfT nor HS2 expect any further delays to the bill’s progress.