Companies vie for 'lucrative' HS2 contracts

Reports that 'lucrative' contracts for work on the planned High Speed Two rail link are to be awarded in the coming months feature in today's newspaper round-up.

The Financial Times (subscription required) reports that more than 1,000 companies are vying for the work which includes one contract "worth £2.9 billion for early stage tunnelling work; £2.7 billion for the surface route; £2.6 billion for stations; £600 million for enabling works; £1.5 billion for railway systems; and £350 million for design services".

Independent energy supplier Ecotricity has teamed up with Skanska, the construction group, in a bid to build £500 million worth of onshore windfarms in the UK within five years, the Guardian reports. The newspaper says that Dale Vince, the founder of Ecotricity, "said it had taken his firm 17 years to build capacity that generates 70 megawatts of wind power but he was hoping to construct 100MW of schemes – enough to power 57,000 homes – every year". Vince "admitted the major expansion plans could be affected if the Conservatives win the general election next year and pressed ahead with plans to drastically reduce onshore wind energy", the newspaper adds.

Writing in the Guardian, columnist Aditya Chakrabortty says the MIPIM UK property conference, being held in London this week, is "a jaunt so lavish as to be almost comic – where big money developers invite town hall executives for secret discussions aboard private yachts". Chakrabortty adds: "Suitably oiled-up, local officials open talks with multinational developers to sell council housing estates and other sites. All this networking is so lucrative for the builders that they even fly over council staff".

The Independent reports that "independent shops, bars and cafés are opening at their fastest rate in years as customers shun the big retail chains". The newspaper says that "in a startling turnaround on previous years, more independent stores opened in the last year than closed, suggesting that while such companies as Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury are still in the doldrums, Britain’s high streets are not suffering as badly as analysts have claimed".

Campaigners have criticised government plans to allow shale gas fracking companies to put "any substance" under people’s homes and property and leave it there, as part of the Infrastructure Bill which will be debated by the House of Lords on Tuesday, the Guardian reports. The newspaper says that changes to trespass law to remove the ability of landowners to block fracking below their property are being pushed through by the government as part of the bill. The legislation "now includes an amendment by Baroness Kramer, the Liberal Democrat minister guiding the bill through the Lords, that permits the ‘passing any substance through, or putting any substance into, deep-level land’ and gives ‘the right to leave deep-level land in a different condition from [that before] including by leaving any infrastructure or substance in the land’", the newspaper says.

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