HS2 to let Early Contractor Involvement contracts in 2015 ahead of Royal Assent

Tier One teams urged to assemble now to prepare for multi-billion pound design and construction contracts.

HS2 engine for growth

The construction and engineering supply chain was last week urged to “prepare for High Speed 2” and start forming integrated teams ahead of start of procurement in 2015 for the first London to Birmingham phase.

HS2 chief executive Simon Kirby told delegates at last week’s supply chain conference that the use of Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) contracts meant he was looking for contractor-led tier 1 design and construction consortia to form now.

And although Royal Assent for the hybrid Bill covering the first £17bn London to Birmingham phase of the project is unlikely in this Parliamentary term, Kirby said that the project would press forward to let stage 1 ECI contracts next year.

£250M BIM opportunities

HS2 strategy director Alistair Kirk told the supply chain conference that it was committed to helping the supply chain to upskill to meet aspirations for using BIM on the project.


“There are £250M of savings tagged to the use of BIM,” said Kirk.


“BIM is really central to delivering the railway and it would be crazy not to use it. We carried out our BIM upskilling study because we had concern about whether the supply chain was going to be ready. It is a mixed bag down the supply chain.”

 “We are ready to begin procurement in 2015 [prior to Royal Assent] - now is the time to begin working together to build teams,” HS2 chief executive Simon Kirby told last week’s supply chain conference in London.

Kirby emphasised that while stage 2 contracts to actually construct the works would not be let until after Royal Assent, the use of ECI meant that it was highly likely the same teams would continue from stage 1.

 “We are looking for relationships to form for the stage 1 contracts and when we have finished stage 1, provided the collaborative partners have met certain criteria, stage 2 is kind of theirs to lose,” he said highlighting that contracts would be let to the “best integrated teams”. 

He said that the project was looking to work with partners who were “ambitious, innovative and creative”. 

It is expected that up to 15 tier 1 contractors will be engaged in stage 1 to design and develop the project but that some 60% of the opportunities that follow as the project moves to the stage 2 construction will be with SMEs.

The key elements of the stage 1 ECI contracts were described as: 

  • Develop the optimised design
  • Plan the construction and programme incorporating innovation
  • Develop a target price

In stage 2 the contractor would then complete the detailed design and construct the works.

Kirby said that if the target price coming out of stage 1 was too high or the performance from the contracting team as not up to expectation then there was an opportunity to retender.

“So stage 1 is really important – don’t think of it as just design activity as it really is the first stage of a two stage relationship,” said Kirby. “If we don’t meet the requirements then we can retender – but hopefully we will never have to do that. Our ideal is that at tier 1 level we will procure all our partners through the stage 1 process.”

“This is the biggest and most exciting opportunity of our whole working lives. We want the best companies with the best people.  We want to set new standards in railway construction."

Simon Kirby, HS2 chief executive

Kirby told the audience of 700 delegates from across the supply chain that it was likely the tier one contracts would be let from 2015 covering tunnels, surface routes, stations, railway systems plus rolling stock. 

The first London to Birmingham phase of the project will be developed across three geographic sections – north, central and south – with separate contracts for the stations at Birmingham and at Euston. It will also include system wide contracts for track, communications, power and signalling. 

 “This is the biggest and most exciting opportunity of our whole working lives,” said Kirby. “We want the best companies with the best people.  We want to set new standards in railway construction.  We will have to innovate and pull ourselves to new heights.”

He said that the key to delivering this ambitious project was to create strong relationships throughout the supply  chain and to developing the project now in collaboration with the industry. 

“We are in transition from a planning team to a construction team - creating the organisation that will deliver HS2,” he said. “It is a chance to make a real difference – businesses will be able to invest in their workforce, developing exportable skills to deliver long lasting benefit to the UK economy. 

Kirby rejected the notion that the forth coming General Election represented a risk to the project timetable. 

“The biggest risk is complacency and not seizing the opportunity” he said. “We have cross party support and a plan. The General Election is not a reason to delay the programme.”


Crewe vs Stoke: Sir David Higgins’ HS2 phase 2 review to set out preferred north-west hub - click here for detail

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