Go-ahead given for work to start on supercarriers

Second World War re-enactors at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which is backing the City of Culture bid Picture: Habibur Rahman

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After months of wrangling, work can finally start on the Royal Navy's new supercarriers.

Portsmouth will be the home to the force's largest-ever vessels after the Ministry of Defence committed itself to the 3.9bn project today.

Having had the government guarantees, VT and BAE systems will now set up a joint venture called BVT Surface Fleet Limited, which will get to work building HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

At 65,000 tons each they are three times the size of the Navy's existing carriers and will sustain thousands of shipbuilding jobs.

While work will be shared around the UK, the bulk will be done at Portsmouth and in Scotland, with sections being shipped to Rosyth for final assembly.

The decision, which was expected to be made public today, comes as a relief to the firms who had repeatedly asked for assurances from the Government that the project would go ahead despite tight budget constraints.

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