Earlier this week, UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling initiated the procurement of rolling stock for the country’s second high-speed rail project. The Department for Transport (DfT) have issued that an acquisition of 60 "classic compatible" trains will need to be delivered as the project starts to get underway. Bidders will be shortlisted in 2018 and the most successful will be awarded the £2.75 billion contract by the end of 2019. Grayling has held discussions with UK rail suppliers to “make sure they are in the best possible position to win contracts.” The winning rail company will also have to maintain the fleet of trains at a dedicated depot built in Birmingham. DfT will launch a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) to provide greater details about the rolling stock specifications. All 60 trains will be built to British loading gauge for operation on its network. Upon completion, it is expected that the infrastructure will transport more than 300,000 people each day.
Simon Kirby, chief executive of HS2 Ltd said: “Whether the rolling stock comes from China, Sunderland, France, or wherever, we can’t specify it will be built in the UK. But our tender will be focused around heavily using the UK supply chain and UK jobs.”
‘We are looking for a supplier who is capable of delivering and maintaining some of the world’s most advanced rolling stock, with designs putting the passenger at their heart to ensure seamless, accessible, fast and reliable journeys’, said Chris Rayner, Managing Director for Railway Systems at HS2 Ltd.
The trainsets will be expected to run at commercial speeds of 360kmh and should meet the DfT's high standards for passenger experience, noise reduction and environmental sustainability.
In another statement, Rayner, said: "We are looking for a supplier who is capable of delivering and maintaining some of the world's most advanced rolling stock, with designs putting the passenger at their heart to ensure seamless, accessible, fast and reliable journeys.” Grayling has also ensured that this contract will provide greater employment opportunities, maximise skills and spur new growth opportunities for the UK economy.
HS2 has been a highly controversial project. The government believes the UK’s current rail infrastructure is reaching full capacity. But on 25 November 2013, the government passed a bill to construct and maintain Phase One of HS2 between London and the West Midlands. The line will be built in a ‘Y’ configuration which will separate the project into two phases. The first phase can be expected to be completed by 2026, whilst the second will be available to passengers in 2033. It will become the fastest train in Europe running 14 times a day in each direction with a capacity of 15,000 seats an hour. This is expected to treble the current capacity. Ministers claim the London-West Midlands section alone will create around 40,000 jobs. Many in support of the development believe it could be a catalyst for economic growth and bridge the North-South divide.
HS2 will pass through around 70 parliamentary constituencies, affecting and disrupting urban and rural locations in different ways. Many of the opposition object the project on the grounds that it will cut through picturesque countryside, impacting areas of natural beauty and their ecosystems. Additionally, some areas further away from the line like Wales could lose jobs rather than gain them. Then there is the more prominent threat that some people could lose their homes. Regions like Mexborough and South Yorkshire will need to make room for the redirected route to Sheffield which means that a new housing estate could face demolition. And for popular London locations such as Camden in the North of the city, it is anticipated that residents will deal with years of disruption.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said in a statement:
“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 helping us build an economy that works for all. In total 25,000 jobs and 2,000 apprenticeships will be created during HS2 construction and we have held discussions with UK suppliers to make sure they are in the best possible position to win contracts.”