Time to press on with HS2

29 June, 2016

New firm job prospects from HS2 are beginning to happen and more are just around the corner. The first Phase of HS2 has passed all of the major stages in the House of Commons, maintaining a 10:1 majority in favour, and is now making good progress in the Lords. Royal Assent is expected at the end of the year. Construction will start in early 2017, and the jobs and skills and training programmes will then take off.

At a time of economic uncertainty, investing in the capacity and capability of our congested national rail network brings an injection of confidence. Not just to the nation’s rail supply industry – which is experiencing a major renaissance in the style of our automotive sector – but also to the construction sector, and to investment in the wider economy. HS2 is already encouraging business investment in new development and jobs (for instance in Birmingham) as the prospect of better connectivity gets closer. HS2 is ready to go, and it will boost the national economy.

Tendering for the main construction phase has already started. The HSR training colleges in Doncaster and Birmingham are now under construction. The economic imperative – especially to stimulate investment and growth in the North of England and the Midlands – remains.

Research by Albion Economics for Greengauge 21 in 2013 estimated that 89,000 Full Time Equivalent jobs would be created in the planning, design, building, maintaining and operating of the HS2 infrastructure, and the trains needed to run on them, across the life of the whole project. Employment would grow to more than 22,000 once Phase 1 (London to Birmingham) construction was fully underway, representing a significant boost to medium-term economic prospects, of which 12,700 would be direct employment in construction (Ref 1).

These estimates dating from 2013 have turned out to be conservative, with HS2 Ltd forecasting 14,600 construction jobs and quality apprenticeships for Phase 1, the majority of which will be in civil engineering.

HS2 has the support of the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Scottish National Parties. Powers for Phase 1 have secured a huge majority vote in Parliament. Businesses and city councils across the North and the Midlands are strongly in favour. Many environmental groups also see the benefit of expanding rail’s role by investing in high-speed rail.

HS2 is a British project. And the jobs will be in Britain too. While the new infrastructure is to be built in England, Wales and Scotland will benefit too, with a supply chain expected to cover the whole of the UK bringing fresh factory orders in a wide range of specialist fields.

New high-speed trains will be able to operate over new and existing tracks to reach places far and wide, such as Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Darlington, York, Carlisle, Preston, Liverpool and Stoke-on-Trent. As Greengauge 21 has shown the central belt in Scotland can be put within 3 hours of the capital as soon as 2027. The planned hub station at Crewe (55 minutes to London) plugs in North Wales. The cities and towns of Scotland, the North of England and Wales, and the Midlands can be linked together like never before.

Local and regional rail services in North West England, in Yorkshire and in the West Midlands will be able to expand, using track-space freed up by intercity trains that are switched to use the new lines. And there will be more scope to get lorries off the main road network and freight onto a rail.

HS2 is a project for taking Britain forwards.

Greengauge 21 Director said: “As HS2 Chairman Sir David Higgins told the BBC, you ignore the North and the Midlands at your peril. HS2 coupled with strengthened rail links across the North and Midlands is needed to drive their economic growth.”

Ref 1 – “HS2 to create jobs and boost skills as companies shortlisted for major engineering contracts”, HS2 Ltd. Press release 23/3/2016.