How industry will build our new high speed rail

Henrik Anderberg, director of High Speed Rail Industry Leaders, looks at why High Speed Rail is essential to UK economy and provides an update on its progress

HS2 will be the biggest ever single investment in the UK rail network. With this huge level of investment, the industry bears the responsibility to deliver the project as efficiently as possible and to ensure that taxpayers get the most value for their spend.

Last year, High Speed Rail Industry Leaders (HSRIL) produced a report outlining how the rail industry will build Britain’s new high speed railway. The report, ‘Poised to Deliver’, uses examples from its member companies lessons learnt and experience built up through projects carried out overseas to show the readiness of industry to deliver the HS2 project on time and within budget in the UK.

Representing companies with relevant experience and an interest in high speed rail in Britain, HSRIL coordinates and shares the expertise and experience within the industry – with the aim of ensuring that Britain’s national high speed rail network is delivered efficiently and successfully to world class standards, leaving a lasting legacy for growth, jobs and skills.

All HSRIL members have significant UK-based operations, employ thousands of British workers and have built up an impressive record at home and abroad. They successfully built HS1 in the UK, and are in the midst of delivering Europe’s largest infrastructure project in Crossrail.

Powering the economy
There is widespread consensus that a modern, high capacity, railway is required to keep Britain’s economy moving and that investment in HS2 will offer a huge return to the economy, ensuring that taxpayers see value for money. Even on the most cautious assumptions the Department for Transport ‘Strategic Case’ states that HS2’s ‘annual benefit could be £8 billion’. Additionally, while all regions benefit, ‘city regions in the Midlands and the North do particularly well’.

The UK rail sector is already contributing to the rebalancing of the economy and KPMG predicts that high speed rail will act as a further economic boost to Britain, estimating that the project will generate as much as £15bn per year.

As we build high speed rail, opportunities will extend well beyond the usual rail industry. As the Secretary of State for Transport announced in November 2013, there will be over £10 billion of supply chain contracts on offer for HS2, running to everything from landscaping to food retailers. 2,000 jobs have already been created as part of the project, with another 20,000 on the way before construction starts. The construction process itself will create 100,000 jobs; and it’s estimated that HS2 will underpin 400,000 jobs overall. What’s more, these jobs will be distributed around the UK, with at least 70 per cent based outside of London.

An investment in people and their skills
Earlier this month, the Rail Supply Group (RSG) launched its strategy to build growth in the UK rail industry and support exports. By using projects like HS2 we can kick start a renaissance in UK manufacturing and exporting and invest in our skills base. As Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and co-chair of the RSG, said: “A strong rail sector supply chain is essential for our future productivity and the commitment to take on 20,000 new apprentices will provide opportunities for our young people to start successful careers in this vital sector.”

This type of investment in people is crucial. HS2 will be part of the biggest investment in our skills base in decades, nurturing a new generation of world class engineers and experts across a range of sectors and creating exportable products and services which will boost the economy. HSRIL member companies are working extensively with schools, colleges and universities to ensure that key STEM subjects are addressing the needs of the industry before career choices are made and to promote the rail and construction sectors as appealing and attractive career paths to school and university applicants.

Investment in Britain’s young people will allow the UK to build on world-class expertise, cementing our status as a global hub for engineering, infrastructure excellence and architecture.

Progress of the High Speed Rail
The High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill Select Committee has heard nearly 1,600 petitions against the Bill and its additional provisions, and has published its second and final report. The Committee’s recommendations, outlined in the report, include: a longer Chilterns bored tunnel with a north portal at South Heath; greater noise protection for Wendover; better construction arrangements in Hillingdon; a remodelled maintenance depot at Washwood Heath to maximise local job opportunities; and amendments to the operation of the discretionary compensation schemes with a view toward greater fairness and a more functional property market in areas near to the proposed line.

The Bill will now be reported to the House. It is then recommitted to a Public Bill Committee for line-by-line scrutiny. The Bill’s Report Stage and Third Reading will follow. If passed by the House of Commons, the Bill will go to the House of Lords for Royal Ascent.

Poised to Deliver
Due to the high level of investment, ensuring that HS2 is delivered as efficiently as possible is critical. The expertise to design, construct and deliver HS2 lies here in the UK. When you look at the expertise of the HSRIL member companies, their skills base in the UK and their commitment to innovation and technology, it is obvious that the industry is ready to deliver this vital upgrade to our nation’s infrastructure. We have gained valuable experience from recent large scale capital projects like Thameslink, Intercity Express Programme, Crossrail and HS1. Those involved will bring that knowledge and expertise to HS2.

HSRIL members already have huge experience of delivering high speed rail projects all over the world. They do this from bases in Britain, using UK talent. Britain designs and builds high speed railways for the world, now it is time to deploy that expertise at home.

The track record of companies in the UK is established beyond doubt. The industry is poised to deliver. HSRIL members are committed to working with HS2 and the government to make it happen.

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