THE latest stage of HS2’s controversial procurement process has been launched.

Architects, designers and developers are being sought to deliver the four stations for phase 1 of the £55.7 billion high-speed rail project.

The winning bidders will work with HS2 to refine plans for three new stations – Birmingham Curzon Street, Birmingham Interchange and London’s Old Oak Common – and the major expansion of London Euston.

A separate contest was also launched on Friday to find a partner to develop a project for new homes, offices and retail space above and around Euston station.

These opportunities could attract bids from engineering firms involved in a row over a previous HS2 contract.

US-based CH2M withdrew from a £170 million deal to develop phase 2b of the network last week after concerns over conflicts of interest.

Losing bidder Mace threatened to sue HS2 amid concerns about its close links with CH2M.

Mark Thurston, HS2’s new chief executive, is a former CH2M employee, as was his temporary predecessor Roy Hill.

A total of 25 HS2 staff have previously worked for CH2M while 37 of the engineering company’s employees are on secondment to HS2.

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Mace called for the phase 2b bidding competition to be rerun but HS2 believes this is unnecessary and has opened discussions with Bechtel, the runner-up in the process.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins will be questioned about the issue by the Commons’ Transport Select Committee on April 19.

Transport minister Andrew Jones said the search for design teams to produce station plans is “a major step towards making HS2 a catalyst for growth across the country”.

He went on: “The winning bidders will need to ensure the stations provide the best possible customer experience.”

HS2 commercial director Beth West said: “We’re looking for the brightest and the best from across the industry to help us deliver one of the most tangible legacies of the HS2 project – three brand new stations and a major expansion of London Euston.

“All four present unique challenges and opportunities for the winning bidders. Together, we will deliver world-class designs that help unlock wider local regeneration opportunities and provide unparalleled levels of accessibility, ease and convenience for the travelling public.”

Phase 1 of HS2 between London and Birmingham is scheduled to open in December 2026, with a second Y-shaped phase launching in two stages.

Phase 2a from the West Midlands to Crewe will open in 2027 and Phase 2b from Crewe to Manchester, and Birmingham to Leeds, will begin operation in 2033.

Legislation for phase 1 passed its final hurdle in Parliament in January and construction work is set to begin in the coming weeks.