When looking at who will build and who will benefit from HS2, HS3 or indeed any future high speed rail project, there is no simple answer. As Ailie Macadam, Managing Director of Bechtel’s global rail business, has pointed out in her speech at today’s ‘Transport Times’ conference, there are thousands of potential suppliers, skilled workers, apprentices and support staff amongst others who will all work together to build the most modern infrastructure project the UK has seen, and who will all look to benefit.
As we are sure you’ll agree, a great many people will play a part in delivering this project, and as a consequence of the decisions that these people make, the lives of many other people will be affected.
Whilst several of the largest infrastructure companies in the UK will all be looking to form a part of the HS2 supply chain, we need to look outside the conventional set up of major projects and towards other businesses and groups, to really understand who and what will be right for HS2. This is a monumental project that requires monumental effort from all manners of individuals and companies, not limited to major transport organisations alone.
As well as offering a new source of work continuity for the construction industry, a project such as this will provide a golden opportunity to invest in training the next generation of engineers and construction professionals. It will also offer UK SMEs, the bedrock of our economy, a vital opportunity to strengthen their enterprises. On the Crossrail project alone, 58% of the supply chain is made up of SMEs. This is not even considering the broader transformative effects that the line will bring throughout the UK; just think of King’s Cross.
However, to ensure that we fully realise the benefits that the project brings, we must collectively ensure that we align these various groups potentially involved in HS2; whether they are communities impacted by construction, contractors with businesses to run, asset owners, train operators, infrastructure maintainers, designers, legacy and development organisations, financial sponsors or governing bodies.
This is a huge task, and one that should not be taken lightly. As HS1 and Crossrail has shown, it will also be a challenge to build trust, understanding and co-ordination amongst the various groups involved, both before, during and after the project is built. There are a huge number of stakeholders involved and, as an industry, we must ensure that they all kept informed and involved from the start.
Indeed, we equally should not underestimate the importance of third party and local input during the construction and planning of HS2; this will be essential not only to engage with local communities, but will ensure that we develop designs and deliver assets that are genuinely in line with local needs.
The High Speed Rail Industry Leaders Group (HSRILG) is already helping to co-ordinate interests throughout the industry. Jointly committed to supporting high-speed rail, the HSRILG has brought together a number of world-leading companies to form an unprecedented coalition of rail experts, all with a unique insight into the transformative benefits that HSR can bring. By working together, the industry can lead by example, share expertise and support the government in ensuring the successful delivery of high speed rail in the UK.
So yes, there is no doubt that this will be a great challenge. However, the industry has gained some great experience from projects like HS1 and Crossrail, and with the right people, the right teams and the right relationships, there is no doubt we can do this again.