Wednesday 16 January 2019 5:14 pm

Under-fire HS2 pushes back contract awards for Euston and Old Oak Common stations

Under-fire transport project HS2 has pushed back the date for appointing contractors to build its stations at Euston and Old Oak Common.

HS2 was due to annouce which firms would be awarded the contract to build the two stations at the end of 2018. This has now been pushed back to the first quarter of this year, according to HS2 data.

London First infrastructure director David Leam said: "Too many projects are becalmed through government drift, indecision and delay. Ministers mustn’t let Brexit shunt domestic policy into the deep freeze."

An HS2 spokesperson said:  "At Euston and Old Oak Common, the arrival of HS2 will deliver much needed extra capacity, better connectivity and the opportunity to unlock thousands of new jobs and homes around both station sites. Our enabling works contractors are already on site clearing the way for the start of the main build phase and delivering essential pre-construction works including essential utility works, demolition, and our extensive archaeology programme.

"We are working closely with government to complete the contract award process for both station construction partners and we will announce the winners early this year."

Read more: Early cost estimates for HS2 were wildly inaccurate says former insider

Construction giants Costain and Skanska are currently working together to clear the ground for construction, including demolishing old carriage sheds, the former National Temperance hospital and the old Ibis hotel.

Two cranes were also delivered to the site for the demolition of two 70s-era towers blocks at the front of the station. A new temporary taxi rank has also been opened.

Last week HS2's chief executive Mark Thurston caused controversy when it was revealed that he admitted at a parliamentary meeting that the £56bn project could be forced to run fewer trains at slower speeds to keep a grip on costs.

His comments were seized upon by leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom who questioned whether there was still a "business case" for HS2.

In a letter to Thurston, Leadsom wrote: “My parliamentary assistant, who attended on my behalf, tells me that you informed the APPG [all-party parliamentary rail group] that, ahead of the business case for HS2 next year, a number of changes to the project may have to be considered in order to keep it within budget and on time – something my colleague the secretary of state for transport has made clear is imperative.

"These changes included possibly lowering the speed that trains will operate at on the line by around 50 km/h, reducing the number of trains from 18 per hour to 14, and changing from a slab track to a ballast track.

"Given the business case for HS2 was first predicated upon speed, then on capacity then finally on improving connectivity with the north, can I ask how these changes – separately and cumulatively – would impact on the viability of the project?

“My constituents are naturally concerned that changes to the project could undermine the business case, negatively affect the benefit-cost ratio, and reduce the value for taxpayers' money."

Thurston replied to say HS2's intention was "to ensure the project is delivered on time and within budget".

Read more: Taxpayers’ Alliance launches competition to find HS2 replacement