The Last Word

04.11.16

HS2 – The biggest single source of new jobs in UK infrastructure

Ailie MacAdam, Bechtel’s rail sector lead and a director of High Speed Rail Industry Leaders (HSRIL), comments on the job opportunities that HS2 offers and the economic benefits the project will bring.

It’s official… HS2 is coming, and it’s bringing with it a bonanza of jobs. At the Conservative Party Conference, prime minister Theresa May confirmed the government would “press ahead” with Britain’s new north-south line. This news is wholly welcomed by the industry. 

A recent report, carried out by Albion Economics and published by HSRIL, forecast that the HS2 project will employ 27,000 people throughout the supply chain by 2020 – making it by far and away the biggest single source of new jobs in the UK infrastructure sector. 

Two-thirds of these roles will be in construction, with the remaining one-third made up of designers and management roles. Of these jobs, more than half – some 14,400 – will be created by the contracts already out to tender from HS2. This is a project that can deliver tangible economic benefits, and fast. 

A substantial proportion of roles created by the HS2 project will take the form of apprenticeships. If apprenticeship levels are achieved at the levels suggested by the Transport Infrastructure Skills Strategy, then we would expect HS2 Phase 1 to support between 5,000 and 9,000 apprenticeships. This will make one of the biggest apprenticeship schemes ever created in the UK. 

The National High Speed Rail College, based in Birmingham and Doncaster, has a key role to play in developing and training young people for these opportunities. This type of investment in young 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. 

Creating these new jobs will help to stimulate economic growth across Britain. There is widespread consensus 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 DfT ‘Strategic Case’ states that HS2’s “annual benefit could be £8bn”. Additionally, while all regions benefit, “city-regions in the Midlands and the north do particularly well”. 

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, IEP, 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 and HSRIL members are committed to working with HS2 and government to make it happen.

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