Courtesy HS2 Ltd.
Designs for HS2's new London terminal were recently submitted for parliamentary approval.


The U.K. government has invited Chinese firms to bid for up to $18 billion of work on the planned London-to-Birmingham high-speed railroad, due to start construction in 2017.

The chief U.K. finance minister, George Osborne, made the invitation on September 24 in Chengdu during a five-day visit to China, and he called for closer economic links between the two countries.

Osborne also announced new guarantees of up to $3 billion for the privately financed deal covering the U.K.’s next nuclear powerplant, Hinkley Point C, in Somerset, which includes Chinese investors.

With parliamentary approval for the roughly 200-kilometer high-speed line (HS2) expected next spring, the project company, HS2 Ltd., has now launched the pre-qualification phase for seven contracts. With a combined value of $18 billion, the contracts cover main civil work, including tunnels and bridges.

Osborne called Chinese contractors to team up with U.K. and other international firms to bid for some of this work. Additionally, he invited China to participate in the HS2-skills college that is due to open in 2017.

At the same time, the U.K. Institution of Civil Engineers and China International Contractors Association agreed on an exchange scheme to develop skills and insights into each other’s infrastructure development.

On the energy front, Osborne’s offer of financing guarantees is expected soon to conclude negotiations over the estimated $22-billion Hinkley pressurized-water plant.

Financing talks have dragged on since the contract was awarded two years ago to a consortium led by Paris-based EDF Group and including China General Nuclear Corp. and China National Nuclear Corp.