HS2 in the UK has initiated a process to select a team of specialist ground investigation (GI) contractors for Phase IIb of the high speed railway line.

The $416.15m (£300m) single framework contract will involve appointing a lead ‘Ground Investigation Partner’, supported by ten specialist ground investigation contractors for implementing the work. The eight-year framework carries an option of two additional years.

The move is part of HS2’s plans to extend the high speed railway from the Midlands to the North.

Selected partners will carry out ground investigations (GI) in a bid to identify technical and financial risks that often increase programme costs.

As part of the procurement, the $117.92m (£85m) Ground Investigation Partner will manage and arrange the packaging of the GI works.

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The GI Contractors, worth up to $298.27m (£215m), will acquire and prepare reports on geotechnical, hydrogeological, and geo-environmental data through surveys.

They will also carry out detailed logging of exploratory holes, in-situ, and laboratory testing, among other works.

Bidders will be shortlisted towards the end of this year, while the contract is expected to be awarded next year.

HS2 Procurement and Supply Chain Director Andrew Cubitt said: “This framework agreement is an important step in our plans to bring HS2 to the North. It will enable us to procure a comprehensive body of ground investigation data to inform our future civil engineering works.

“The structure of the framework agreement means that more than ten contractors could benefit from the opportunities we are creating, which comes at a vital time for UK businesses seeking stability and growth as we strive to recover from the effects of the pandemic.”

Overall, the ground investigation programme will enable the digging of more than 15,000 exploratory holes to create a model of the ground beneath the whole rail route.

This data will be useful to address potential ground hazards and facilitate the design and construction of the railway.

Last month, HS2 started developing a digital virtual reality technology to evaluate and improve its designs for aiding commuters to navigate around the new HS2 station at Old Oak Common in north-west London.