The three contracts have a combined value of £7.4m and cover engineering design and environmental services on the lines from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds. Aecom has been awarded a £3.1m contract covering engineering services for the Birmingham – Manchester line, while Mott MacDonald has received a £3.2m contract for the Birmingham – Leeds section. Following the completion of public consultation, both contractors will refine the route proposals, a process which is due to be completed by March 2015.

The third £1.1m contract has been awarded to Arup and covers environmental impact assessments for both the Leeds and Manchester lines.

Both phase 2 branches are due to open in 2032, although the launch of public consultation has been brought forward to this year with the aim of advancing the completion date.