The UK Government has shortlisted seven consortia for a £900m share of preparatory work, ahead of the start of major civil engineering on the first stage of High Speed 2 (HS2) project between London and the West Midlands.

Work under this project has been split into three packages covering northern, central and southern sections of the route, with the job expected to start on schedule in 2017.

HS2 is part of the government’s plan to rebalance the UK economy and build a Northern Powerhouse by providing high-speed rail services from London to the Midlands and the North.

The shortlisted bidders include BBV JV; CEK JV; Costain Skanska JV – Costain, Skanska Construction; LM – Laing O’Rourke, J. Murphy & Sons; Morgan Sindall / BAM / Ferrovial JV; Align JV – BouyguesTravaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine, Morrison Utility Services, Volkerfitzpatrick; and Momentum Infrastructure – Galliford Try Infrastructure, Hochtief Infrastructure, Dragados.

"Today’s shortlist marks an important milestone as we move towards the start of construction in 2017 and a real boost for the UK construction industry."

BBV JV includes Balfour Beatty Group, Vinci Construction Grands Projets, Vinci Construction UK Limited, Vinci Construction Terrassement and CEK JV is comprised of Carillion Construction, Eiffage Travaux Publics, Kier Infrastructure and Overseas.

The shortlisted bidders are expected to be invited to tender in early next year, with contract award later that year.

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The scope of work will include utility diversions, ecology surveys, archaeology, site clearance, demolition, ground remediation, watercourse and highways realignments, monitoring and instrumentation, structural reinforcements and drainage.

HS2 CEO Simon Kirby said: "Today’s shortlist marks an important milestone as we move towards the start of construction in 2017 and a real boost for the UK construction industry.

"Over the course of the next few years, the winning bidders will go on to employ thousands of people on site and in the supply chain, preparing the ground for the start of major civil engineering.

"Announcing the shortlist now will help give business the certainty they need to push on with their bids, start to put in place supply chains and invest in recruitment, training and education ahead of the start of construction."

In November, the government has confirmed its intention to open a section of the HS2 high-speed rail link between Fradley, West Midlands, and Crewe in 2027, six years ahead of schedule.

A public consultation has been launched on a long-term property compensation and assistance package for the Phase IIa route of the project.