I am grateful to Andy McDonald for the Opposition’s continued support for the HS2 project. I hope that we shall be able to work on it together. I think that the House, or a large proportion of it, is united in believing that the project is necessary to the economic development of the future.
As I said a moment ago, I am very pleased to be here now. I should have preferred to be here earlier, but, as I said, it is sometimes a case of cock-up rather than conspiracy.
Let me begin by saying something about the construction contracts. We have contracted a range of significant British companies as part of the awarding of contracts today. A range of consortiums is participating, and many of them are already an integral part of Crossrail, which is our biggest engineering project—and the biggest in Europe. We have a good team of UK and international organisations that are used to working as a team to deliver big infrastructure projects. However, the assurance that I give the hon. Gentleman and the House is that, as I have made clear all along, the companies that win contracts for HS2—whether construction, design or, ultimately, rolling stock contracts—will be obliged to make a commitment to leave a lasting skills footprint. That means apprenticeship programmes and skills development, and I think the two high-speed college campuses that we have established in Birmingham and Doncaster will help to develop real expertise for the future.
The hon. Gentleman talked about Carillion. Carillion is a big UK construction business which is clearly going through a troubled time, and we all hope that it will pull through, because we want to see British business succeed. However, I can tell him that Carillion is part of a consortium in which all the organisations involved have committed to delivering their part of the contract, and I am confident that whatever the position in respect of Carillion, that consortium will deliver the results that we expect.
The hon. Gentleman talked about conflicts of interest and CH2M. As he is aware, it pulled out of that particular contract. I have every intention of ensuring that we have proper behaviour by companies in future; they will be unable to continue to work for us if they do not do the right thing.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the total cost of the project. Over the past 24 hours there have been some wild rumours about the cost, based on people who are not involved in the project putting a finger in the air. I simply remind the House that it is incredible, inconceivable and simply nonsense to suggest that HS2 will cost five times the amount of HS1 per mile. This project has a total cost attached of £55.7 billion. It is currently on time and on budget, and I expect it to stay that way. In this country we have experience of major projects, such as Crossrail and the Olympics, and we have been pretty good at delivering on time and on budget. I am sure that we will carry on doing so.
The hon. Gentleman asked about electrification of the M18 route. I can confirm that the route from Sheffield Midland north to Leeds will also be electrified to ensure that through services can run to Leeds. That link is also an important part of northern powerhouse rail. On parkways stations, work is continuing to look at the best options. With regard to the whole northern powerhouse rail project, I am waiting for Transport for the North to bring forward its proposals. With regard to trans-Pennine modernisation, nothing has changed.