UK in talks with China over offer to help build HS2 'in just five years at lower cost'

15 February 2020, 00:22

Boris Johnson controversially gave the green light for the scheme to go ahead this week
Boris Johnson controversially gave the green light for the scheme to go ahead this week. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Britain is in talks with China over giving the country’s state-owned railway builder a role in constructing HS2.

The China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) has told the Government it can build the high-speed line in just five years at a much lower cost than is currently forecast, according to the Financial Times.

Boris Johnson controversially gave the green light for the scheme to go ahead this week, despite an official review warning costs could reach over £100 billion against a budget of £62 billion.

Department for Transport (DfT) officials confirmed "preliminary discussions" had taken place between CCRC and HS2 Ltd, but said no "concrete commitments" had been made.

Under current plans the final stretch of the line is not due to be completed until 2040 - although Mr Johnson has said he wants that brought forward to 2035.

However, the FT reported that CCRC had written to HS2 Ltd's chief executive last month saying it could build the line by the middle of the decade, for a much reduced price tag.

The letter, first reported by Building Magazine and seen by the FT, states: "We are certain that we can offer a cost that is significantly lower than the projections we have seen.

"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."

One DfT official said: "The DfT is always keen to learn from the experience of others and to consider approaches that offer value for money to the taxpayer.”

The offer comes amid controversy over Huawei’s involvement in building the UK’s 5G network.

Concerns have been raised over security risks posed by the Chinese tech giant having access to key infrastructure.

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