HS2 has published its shortlist of potential plant material suppliers, including a consortium of Hillier, Oakover Nurseries and Wyevale Nurseries as well as Crowders and Johnsons of Whixley listed separately. The contract for planting alongside the route of the new rail link is worth £5m-£9m.
An HS2 spokesperson said: "This contract will be awarded to one company and the anticipated award date is in quarter three of 2016," meaning the contract award is expected in the next month.
Hillier director Hossein Arshadi said the contract could be awarded as soon as the end of the first week in September. "Obviously it is one of the largest contracts going at the moment." On the partnership with Oakover and Wyevale, he said: "When jobs come along you look at things accordingly and make a decision for each project."
Arshadi said there is a plant list but it might change and HS2 will give full details of timings and plants to the successful bidder when the contract is awarded. The larger trees contract for HS2 is yet to be finalised but Hillier confirmed that it will be bidding for that too.
Crowders declined to comment on its bid but Johnsons of Whixley director Andrew Richardson said he hopes flexibility shown supplying HS1 will hold the North Yorkshire-based grower in good stead for HS2. He expressed confidence that the project will proceed despite a pause in planning post Brexit, the appointment of new prime minister Theresa May and Parliament's summer recess.
"There is a huge amount of open ground and field-grown material in the contract," said Richardson. "We quoted and will pull in stock from other suppliers in the UK."
Construction work on the first phase of the rail link is set to begin in 2017 and work is expected to be completed in 2033. Growers say HS2 requires more than one-million native trees and shrubs for phase one in 2017.