Transport chiefs have announced the formal start of construction work on HS2 with the project expected to create 22,000 new jobs over the coming years.
The new high-speed rail line will run between Birmingham and London and comprise two new stations in the capital alongside sites in Birmingham city centre and Solihull.
The latter, to be called Interchange and built on land east of Birmingham Airport, received planning consent last month.
In April, the Department for Transport gave approval for HS2 to issue a Notice to Proceed to the four main civil contractors working on the project to commence full detailed design and construction of phase one.
The quartet has now moved from enabling works, scheme design and preparatory work and on to full construction of the railway.
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An estimated 400,000 supply chain contract opportunities for UK businesses will be created during phase one of HS2 which is due for completion in the late 2020s.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “HS2 is at the heart of our plans to build back better and with construction now formally under way, it’s set to create around 22,000 new jobs.
“As the spine of our country’s transport network, the project will be vital in boosting connectivity between our towns and cities.
“But HS2’s transformational potential goes even further.
“By creating hundreds of apprenticeships and thousands of skilled jobs, HS2 will fire up economic growth and help to rebalance opportunities across this country for years to come.”
The main works contractor for the West Midlands is a joint venture between Balfour Beatty and Vinci.
The pair said that, along with their supply chain partners, they expected the scheme to be one of the largest recruiters in the region over the next two years, with up to 7,000 skilled jobs required to complete its section of the HS2 route.
HS2 itself is directly recruiting for 500 new roles over the next three months, with the majority based in Birmingham, as the project moves into the construction phase.
Chief executive Mark Thurston added: “This is a hugely exciting moment in the progress of HS2.
“After ten years of development and preparatory work, today we can formally announce the start of full construction, unlocking thousands of jobs and supply chain opportunities across the project.
“We are already seeing the benefits that building HS2 is bringing to the UK economy in the short term but it’s important to emphasise how transformative the railway will be for our country when operational.
“With the start of construction, the reality of high speed journeys joining up Britain’s biggest cities in the North and Midlands and using that connectivity to help level up the country has just moved a step closer.”
The second phase of HS2 will run between Birmingham and the North West, East Midlands and Yorkshire and is due for completion in 2040.