Osborne whose China trip comes ahead of a state visit to the UK by Chinese President Xi Jinping next month has urged Chinese investors to bid for contracts to build HS2, as he opened the bidding process for the high-speed rail line…reports Asian Lite news.
Speaking in China, he urged firms to bid for seven contracts worth £11.8bn in total – covering the first phase of HS2, between London and Birmingham. Mr Osborne also invited bids for £24bn of investment in northern England.
Critics say opening HS2 bidding before Parliament has approved the scheme “smacks of a mercenary approach,” reports BBC news.
The initial plan is for a new railway line between London and the West Midlands carrying 400m-long (1,300ft) trains with up to 1,100 seats per train.
They would initially operate at speeds of up to 225mph (362km/h), potentially rising to 250mph (400km/h) and would travel up to 14 times per hour in each direction.
This would be followed by a V-shaped second phase taking services from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds. Intermediate stations in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire are also planned.
Mr Osborne, who is on a trip to boost trade links between the UK and China, announced the start of the procurement process for bridges, tunnels and earthworks.
Speaking in Chengdu, he said: “Launching HS2 is key to supporting long-term economic growth across the North and Midlands.
“That’s why I’m here in China today opening the bidding process for construction contracts worth £11.8bn, which will propel HS2 forward.
“We are truly entering a golden era of co-operation between our two countries, and it’s crucial that businesses and communities from across the UK feel the full benefit of forging closer economic links with China,” adds BBC news report.
The first phase of the proposed high-speed rail link would be constructed between London and Birmingham, with proposed extensions to Manchester and Leeds.
Simon Kirby, chief executive of HS2, said Mr Osborne’s appeal was designed to bring “the best technology into the UK”, saying the project would boost British jobs.
Final contracts would not be signed until the bill received Royal Assent, he added, saying it was “best practice” to get the firms who will build the track involved in early planning stages, according to BBC news.
Campaigners are fighting the plans on grounds of cost and the damage they say the network will do to picturesque countryside it goes through.
Mr Osborne also invited Chinese investors to become involved in infrastructure schemes in the north of England, including a proposed Science Central development in Newcastle and the Atlantic Gateway development between Liverpool and Manchester.