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Chinese company in 'preliminary' talks to build HS2

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(Video by Press Association)

A Chinese railway company could be about to take over construction of the troubled HS2 rail link.

The British government is in talks with the China Railway Construction Corporation, which has said it can build the line in just five years at a much lower cost.

a close up of a sign: HS2 is not expected to be completed until 2040 but a Chinese company says it can do better © Imagebridge HS2 is not expected to be completed until 2040 but a Chinese company says it can do better

In a letter reported in Building Magazine but seen by the Financial Times, CCRC wrote to HS2 Ltd's chief executive saying: "We are certain that we can offer a cost that is significantly lower than the projections we have seen.

"The advantages are too great, in our opinion, too great to dismiss on the basis that there are obstacles to overcome.

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"You will find that the Chinese way is to seek solutions, not linger on obstacles and difficulties."

The Department for Transport confirmed to Sky News that the two sides had been in "preliminary discussions on opportunities but no concrete commitments have been made".

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson listens during a visit to Curzon Street railway station where the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project is under construction, in Birmingham, Britain February 11, 2020. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh/Pool © Thomson Reuters Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson listens during a visit to Curzon Street railway station where the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project is under construction, in Birmingham, Britain February 11, 2020. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh/Pool

"The DfT is always keen to learn from the experience of others and to consider approaches that offer value for money to the taxpayer," a spokesperson said.

The Chinese company has built most of the country's 15,500-mile high-speed network but dealing with property rights, lobby groups and protected landscapes will be a different task.

a close up of a map: HS2 will run from London to the West Midlands and then towards Leeds and Manchester © Other HS2 will run from London to the West Midlands and then towards Leeds and Manchester

Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson upset many of his own MPs and US President Donald Trump when he announced Chinese tech firm Huawei would be allowed to supply equipment for Britain's 5G mobile network.

Mr Johnson agreed HS2 should go ahead just days ago, despite a review warning that it could cost more than £100bn - far above the budget of £62bn.

a group of people standing next to a train: The China Railway Construction Corporation is also involved in the Lagos-Ibadan railway in Nigeria © Getty The China Railway Construction Corporation is also involved in the Lagos-Ibadan railway in Nigeria

He said at the time that the firm handling construction has not "distinguished itself" but that "poor management has not detracted from the fundamental value" of the plan.

He confirmed work on Phase One - which runs from London Euston to Birmingham - and Phase 2a - an extension to Crewe - would continue "on something approaching time and budget".

Construction site for the HS2 mainline station at Curzon Street on 13th February 2020 in Birmingham, England, United Kingdom. The Curzon Street Masterplan covers a 141 hectare area of regeneration, focussed on HS2 Curzon Street station in Birmingham city centre, combined with approximately 700 million in investment into the surrounding area including new homes and commercial developments. High Speed 2 is a partly planned high speed railway in the United Kingdom with its first phase in the early stages of construction, the second phase is yet to receive full approval and the third is subject to merging with Northern Powerhouse Rail, a separate project. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images) © Mike Kemp Construction site for the HS2 mainline station at Curzon Street on 13th February 2020 in Birmingham, England, United Kingdom. The Curzon Street Masterplan covers a 141 hectare area of regeneration, focussed on HS2 Curzon Street station in Birmingham city centre, combined with approximately 700 million in investment into the surrounding area including new homes and commercial developments. High Speed 2 is a partly planned high speed railway in the United Kingdom with its first phase in the early stages of construction, the second phase is yet to receive full approval and the third is subject to merging with Northern Powerhouse Rail, a separate project. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)

Phase 2b - which runs to Manchester and north east to Leeds - will be put under review and subsumed into the current "Northern powerhouse" rail project.

The line is not due to be completed until 2040, although Mr Johnson has said he wants to move this forward to 2035.

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