The U.K. government company High Speed Two Ltd. on July 17 named winners of seven contracts together worth $8.6 billion covering civil work on the 190-km high-speed railroad line called HS2, which will provide service between London and Birmingham. Construction is due to begin in 2019, with the first trains scheduled for 2026.

Among the biggest winners is the joint venture between London-based Balfour Beatty Group Ltd. and units of Vinci Group, Paris. The team secured two contracts totalling $3.3 billion for the line's northern third. Other continental European winners include France's Bouygues Group and Eiffage Group, and Austria-based Strabag A.G.

The contracts cover design and preparatory work on the line lasting about one year. Contracts are then expected to be converted to full construction, when the project will employ up to 16,000 people, according to government forecasts.