Grayling insists HS2 will not be delayed by Carillion’s demise

Transport secretary, Chris Grayling.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has defended his decision to award HS2 contracts to debt-laden construction giant Carillion and assured MPs that the delivery of the high-speed rail network will not be delayed by the firm’s collapse.

Speaking in the House of Commons today, Grayling also had encouraging news for all Carillion apprentices working on the HS2 project after confirming they would be transferred to the two other companies involved in the consortium; Kier and Eiffage. The confirmation that apprentices’ futures are secured is a much-needed announcement for the cabinet minister who has faced widespread criticism for awarding Carillion work, just a week after they issued a profit warning.

In July 2017, Carillion was named as one of the winners of £6.6bn worth of contracts to construct the line, alongside engineering group Kier and French construction company Eiffage, with the companies specifically tasked to build tunnels on the central section of the route, which runs from London to Birmingham. Analysts estimated that Carillion’s share of the contracts was £450m. 

Grayling has continued to defend his position in the cabinet despite stating last summer he had received “secure undertakings” from Carillion they would be able to deliver the project without any issue.

Speaking to MPs today, Grayling confirmed that Kier and Eiffage would now take on any extra workload and insisted the project was always going to be delivered as part of a consortium and never relied wholly on Carillion.

He said: “We have carried out a full review of HS2 including the business case and we have the capacity to deliver this project on time. The demise of Carillion is a tragic event for the country, but it will not affect the project. Three companies were contracted for the project and the other two will take over responsibility. I can also confirm the apprentices working with Carillion are simply being transferred to one of the other two firms.”

The transport secretary also defended the government’s continued policy of encouraging private investment into the rail network by stating it was this money that was helping to replace old, unreliable trains that contributed to passenger delays.

Grayling has come under attack from many lately but today shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald asked his Conservative counterpart in the Commons whether it was time for him to “leave the station”. McDonald said this week’s collapse highlighted how the transport secretary had got it “spectacularly wrong” and his judgement was “misplaced”.

HS2 is one of the centrepieces of the government’s plans to upgrade Britain’s creaking infrastructure. The high-speed railway line, starting from London, which will eventually have lines passing through to the West Midlands to Manchester and Leeds is due to be completed by 2026. Trains are projected to operate at speeds of up to 250mph – faster than any current rail network in Europe. Last year, seven contracts were awarded to four consortiums to cover the design and construction of bridges, tunnels, embankments and viaducts on the initial stretch of HS2 between London and the West Midlands.

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