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Chinese firm says it can build HS2 in five years and at much lower cost

A Chinese railway company could be about to take over construction of the troubled HS2 rail link.

The British government is in talks with the China Railway Construction Corporation, which has said it can build the line in just five years at a much lower cost.

In a letter reported in Building Magazine but seen by the Financial Times, CRCC wrote to HS2 Ltd’s chief executive saying: “We are certain that we can offer a cost that is significantly lower than the projections we have seen.

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“The advantages are too great, in our opinion, too great to dismiss on the basis that there are obstacles to overcome.

“You will find that the Chinese way is to seek solutions, not linger on obstacles and difficulties.”

A prototype rail line, to be constructed by China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), on the Lagos-Ibadan rail line project at the Ebute-Metta headquarters of the Nigerian Railway Corporation in Lagos on March 7, 2017.
Image: The China Railway Construction Corporation is also involved in the Lagos-Ibadan railway in Nigeria

The Department for Transport confirmed to Sky News that the two sides had been in “preliminary discussions on opportunities but no concrete commitments have been made”.

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“The DfT is always keen to learn from the experience of others and to consider approaches that offer value for money to the taxpayer,” a spokesperson said.

The Chinese company has built most of the country’s 15,500-mile high-speed network but dealing with property rights, lobby groups and protected landscapes will be a different task.

HS2 will run from London to the West Midlands and then on towards Leeds and Manchester
Image: HS2 will run from London to the West Midlands and then towards Leeds and Manchester

Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson upset many of his own MPs and US President Donald Trump when he announced Chinese tech firm Huawei would be allowed to supply equipment for Britain’s 5G mobile network.

Mr Johnson agreed HS2 should go ahead just days ago, despite a review warning that it could cost more than £100bn – far above the budget of £62bn.

He said at the time that the firm handling construction has not “distinguished itself” but that “poor management has not detracted from the fundamental value” of the plan.

Sophy Ridge Q Thumbnail HS2
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He confirmed work on Phase One – which runs from London Euston to Birmingham – and Phase 2a – an extension to Crewe – would continue “on something approaching time and budget”.

Phase 2b – which runs to Manchester and north east to Leeds – will be put under review and subsumed into the current “Northern powerhouse” rail project.

The line is not due to be completed until 2040, although Mr Johnson has said he wants to move this forward to 2035.

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