Despite all the rumbling from the inhabitants of southern England, HS2 continues to plan for the future.

Atkins has been awarded the contract to prepare the preliminary designs for the two high-speed running lines through the Country South section – a 91km stretch covering Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire.

The contract is worth £13.3 million and includes the design work for the Colne Valley Viaduct, the twin bore tunnels under the Chilterns and a range of new ‘green’ tunnels (which are specifically designed to blend in with the surroundings).

David Tonkin, Atkins’ UK chief executive officer, said:

“HS2 is an important step towards providing the UK with the world-leading infrastructure and additional rail capacity needed to deliver sustainable economic growth.

“As well as designing a high-quality, cost efficient railway, we have to be very aware of how we minimise the impact the construction and operation of the line could have on the communities through which it will travel, and we will work closely with HS2 Ltd, rail systems designers, environmentalists and land referencing companies in order to achieve this.”

Work will start immediately and will be completed to coincide with the introduction of the HS2 hybrid bill to Parliament by the end of 2013.