I know that the Government will take whatever action is necessary to deal with COVID-19, and that it will also continue to invest in vital future infrastructure. HS2 remains a hugely important infrastructure project, both for the transport network and wider UK economy. Indeed, HS2 will deliver thousands of extra seats for rail passengers, help level up the country and play an important role in helping the UK to reach its ambitious net zero carbon emissions objective by 2050.
I know that Ministers have carefully considered whether it is right to proceed with construction work on Phase One of HS2 in light of the coronavirus outbreak. The decision has been made to commence work, but I want to reassure you that this will be undertaken in line with Public Health England’s guidance on construction work continuing during the coronavirus outbreak. The Government has asked HS2 Ltd to work with its construction partners to ensure compliance with the guidance so that work is conducted in a way that is safe for workers and the public.
Sites will close where compliance with the guidelines is not achievable - around 25 sites are now closed. I understand that work at the remaining sites is either paused while contractors review whether construction can continue, or is proceeding in accordance with the guidance. Much of the initial work on the main construction of Phase One will also take place off-site as it involves developing further designs and logistics plans.
It is also worth noting that given the uncertainty facing the construction sector due to the coronavirus outbreak, issuing the ‘Notice to proceed’ provides a vote of confidence in construction companies and the wider supply chain supporting HS2.
Finally, we will have to look at all public spending plans in the light of the economic effects of the Covid outbreak. If we cannot get the economy (including the global economy) moving we will not generate the revenues needed to support the spending on public services we would like. All emails have been passed to the Department of Transport.