HS2 Ltd has begun the search for a team of specialist ground investigation contractors to work on phase 2b of the high speed rail project, despite continuing uncertainty over the line’s northern section.
The single framework contract – worth around £300M – will include the appointment of a lead ground investigation partner supported by up to 10 specialist ground investigation contractors to deliver the sophisticated programme of work.
This flexible approach will allow HS2 Ltd to call on as much technical expertise as required, depending on design needs and the outcome of the government’s Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), which is expected to be published later this year.
The procurement is underway despite fears that phase 2b’s eastern leg could be mothballed, which have been growing since the Department for Transport (DfT) announced plans to split the phase 2b bill in two, separating legislation needed to build the western and eastern legs.
Those fears were exacerbated by recommendations made by the NIC’s Rail needs assessment, which recommended prioritising the western leg to Manchester, and May’s Queen’s Speech, which said the western leg would be taken forward in the coming year but contained to reference to the eastern leg.
According to Shapps, more details will be revealed in the government’s long-awaited IRP which will set out how major projects such as HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), the Midlands Engine will be phased and connected.
It was due to be published “early” this year, but was delayed due to local election purdah rules and has still not been released.
However as part of the government’s plans to build back better and deliver economic benefits and improved transport links to the North, it has instructed HS2 Ltd to proceed with legislation for the western leg of phase 2b – from Crewe to Manchester – as a priority.
HS2 procurement and supply chain director Andrew Cubitt described the framework agreement as “an important step” in the plans to bring HS2 to the North.
“It will enable us to procure a comprehensive body of ground investigation data to inform our future civil engineering works,” he said.
“The structure of the framework agreement means that more than ten contractors could benefit from the opportunities we are creating, which comes at a vital time for UK businesses seeking stability and growth as we strive to recover from the effects of the pandemic.”
The flexible framework approach also allows for contractors to be pulled in to deliver ground investigation work to support the delivery of the IRP.
The procurement is for an initial eight-year framework, with the option to extend for a further two years. It is split into two lots:
Overall, the phase 2b ground investigations programme is designed to reduce the risk of cost and programme overruns due to unexpected ground conditions.
In total, the ground investigation programme allows for more than 15,000 exploratory holes and will enable a model of the ground beneath the whole route to be developed. This geotechnical data has a vital role to play in informing the design and construction of the railway and allows ground hazards to be addressed and managed effectively.
The launch of the contract opportunity this week does not commit HS2 to any spending at this stage. Bidders will be shortlisted towards the end of the year with the contract award expected in 2022.
Department of Civil Engineering https://www.ibu.edu.ba/department-of-civil-engineering/