United Kingdom

Britain in talks with China over giving Beijing's state-owned railway builder a role in building HS2

China has offered to build a cheaper, faster HS2 service in just five years, it was reported last night.

British officials are in talks with Chinese counterparts about getting the high-speed rail project back on track.

Beijing claimed it could build the line by 2025 for less money and with faster trains, according to the Financial Times.

The Department for Transport confirmed preliminary discussions were under way between HS2 and the state-owned China Railways Construction Corporation. No firm commitments are said to have been made.

China has offered to build a cheaper, faster HS2 service in just five years, it was reported last night. Pictured: Artist's impression of an HS2 train on the Birmingham and Fazeley viaduct

A spokesman said: 'We are always keen to learn from the experience of others and to consider approaches that offer value for money.'

Boris Johnson gave HS2 the green light earlier this week despite total cost estimates reaching more than £100billion.

CRCC has built most of China's 15,500-mile high-speed network in a decade, accounting for two thirds of all fast lines globally.

It wants to deliver speeds of 260mph for HS2 trains, which is well above the current projected maximum range of between 200mph and 225mph. 

Last month, the company wrote to HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston claiming it 'stands ready to solve all of the issues that the project currently faces'.

CRCC added: 'We are certain that we can offer a cost that is significantly lower than the projections we have seen.

'The advantages, are, in our opinion, too great to dismiss on the basis that there are obstacles to overcome. You will find that the Chinese way is to seek solutions, not linger on obstacles and difficulty.'

British officials are sceptical about the logistics of the Chinese proposals. 

Boris Johnson gave HS2 the green light earlier this week despite total cost estimates reaching more than £100billion

They point out that building a railway line in China is simpler than in a democracy such as Britain which has property rights, protected landscapes and a powerful anti-development lobby.

There are also concerns over further Chinese investment after the Government approved Huawei's involvement in a 5G mobile roll-out despite security fears.

CRCC acknowledged this in the letter, saying: 'There seems to be a willingness on the part of government to embrace a major contribution to 5G from the Chinese with regard to Huawei. We believe that this situation could be compared.'

Work is set to start within weeks on the first stretch of the line between London and Birmingham, with a second phase going to Manchester and Leeds. Mr Johnson wants to bring forward the date that it is fully operational by five years to 2035.

Downing Street said it believed the Prime Minister could deliver the entire HS2 project for between £72billion and £98billion with a dedicated minister tasked with preventing 'further blowouts' on budget and schedule.

China showed its prowess in high-speed construction only this month by building a hospital in coronavirus-stricken Wuhan in just ten days.