HS2 Breakfast panel
From the point of view of the construction industry, HS2 can’t get started soon enough.
According to the most recent estimates, the project will create 25,000 jobs in the construction sector. Of those 25,000 jobs in construction, 2,000 will be apprenticeships – something D-Drill is a very passionate advocate of.
The question some may ask is whether those jobs could be put to better use elsewhere on infrastructure projects – such as new roads or a major housebuilding programme. I.e. We shouldn’t just build HS2 to create jobs when other infrastructure projects would do the same and may be better for the country/region.
We would argue, let’s have both. Let’s have HS2 – but also road, air and other rail improvements as well as a dramatic increase in housebuilding to meet shortfalls.
Investment in infrastructure, particularly at this time, would provide a much-needed boost for the UK economy.
One of the challenges that HS2 will present is our ability to have enough skilled workers to be able to deliver the project and that is something that must be addressed extremely quickly.
The construction sector lost a great many skilled workers during the recession and still hasn’t managed to replace them.
Although many companies, like ours, are training apprentices and aiming to bridge the gap there will have to be a joined up approach between Government, HS2, education and the industry if we are to deliver the people that a project of this scale will require.
But it is a challenge that we have to meet and, actually, HS2 is only serving to highlight the problem that already exists in terms of skills and it’s one we have to tackle head-on.
To my knowledge, there won’t a local procurement policy but companies of all sizes are being given the opportunity to bid for work and it’s only right that a project of this magnitude benefits the whole of the supply chain and not just the ‘big boys’.
My impression is that contracts won’t be awarded on the basis of geography but it’s up to those in the supply chain to make sure they register their interest and that they do it quickly.
This is an opportunity for the whole of the construction sector and it’s one we must grab with both hands.
Economic Impact - regional
HS2, itself, provides an opportunity for the whole of the West Midlands – not just Birmingham.
But that will come down to how each part of the region manages to link into it. Hopefully, this is where a West Midlands Combined Authority will be able to bring some regional thinking and will look at ways that the whole area feels the benefit of this project.
We have to start thinking bigger as a region. Coventry, for example, will only be a few miles from the station and that will be a very good selling point globally in terms of its infrastructure and how easy it is to reach.
Equally, however, you can understand why Coventry is nervous about HS2 because its needs assurances that the city is not going to see a drop in its service to London from its own station – especially when there is so much development taking place around the station area.
Economic impact – national
A report from Arcadis in October last year said that they UK had slipped down the global infrastructure ‘league table’. The value is half that of Germany and the report said that the UK relied too heavily on existing infrastructure.
It pointed to HS2, among other projects, as an opportunity for the UK to improve its infrastructure but said that Government must provide clearer timetables for major projects in order to attract the necessary funding.