The government has outlined its planned route for Phase Two of the High Speed 2 (HS2) railway network.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling wants the route to offer transport from Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to Leeds, providing a significant boost to the UK’s economic future and the contractors that work in the rail and transport sector.
It is hoped the move will improve capacity on the country’s railways for both passengers and freight, while creating more reliable connections between the country’s largest cities and regions.
More than 300,000 people will be carried by HS2 trains every day, tripling the number of seats available from Euston Train Station at peak times. This will make it easier for individuals to commute to jobs across the country and hopefully give businesses a wider talent pool to choose from.
What’s more, during the construction process, around 25,000 jobs will be developed including rail engineers, project managers amongst others, alongside 2,000 apprenticeships.
As well as this, growth in the wider economy will provide an extra 100,000 jobs, helping to boost employment opportunities and make it easier for employees to travel for work.
When will HS2 be introduced?
The first phase of HS2 is scheduled to open in December 2026 when trains will travel at high speed between London and Birmingham before moving onto the existing West Coast Main Line.
Links to Manchester and Leeds are then speculatively expected to open by 2032-33, meaning there will be demand for construction jobs for well over 15 years and then maintenance roles will be required for several years after that.
Once the full network is completed, HS2 trains will move up the East and West Coast Main Lines, providing transport to areas such as Stafford, Liverpool, Preston, York and Newcastle.
Mr Chris Grayling said: “HS2 is an ambitious and exciting project and the government is seizing the opportunity it offers to build a transport network fit for the 21st century; one that works for all and makes clear to the world that Britain remains open for business.”
He went on to say that the HS2 route will be a “game-changer” for the UK, cutting journey times and giving rail passengers thousands of extra seats and providing one of the largest travel upgrades of recent times.
Of course, the project may be subject to change. The state of the economy will have an impact on its overall costs and the upcoming EU referendum could be another factor that drives up the price.
It will be up to the government to make sure that the project is delivered in a cost-effective and timely way.
What are the potential problems?
While the plans are sure to make a positive difference to the lives of professionals across the UK, there will clearly be some issues that need to be addressed, especially in the areas where work will be done.
Mr Grayling explained that there will be difficulties encountered by communities on the route, and these people will receive compensation to improve the process.
The cost of the project also rose in June 2013 from £32.7 billion to £42.6 billion, though the government will hope the work pays off with better jobs and a more stable economy.
Communities secretary Sajid Javid also commented on the plans, noting that the HS2 routes will help to create an economy that “works for everyone”.
Although the project has come in for criticism from some people for its large budget and extensive delivery time, the government will hope the improved travel options it brings to the UK will be more than worthwhile.
Sourcing the right skills for the roles
The rail industry currently relies heavily on the flexible workforce whose skills and expertise will be of huge value to this kind of project.
Contractors already operating the in rail, construction and IT sectors will bring extensive knowledge and experience that the HS2 project can utilise and benefit from. To address the potential skill gap that this scale of project presents, there has been scope for additional training centres to ensure the next generation of engineers are brought up to speed quickly.
Mr Javid underlined that new growth, jobs and properties are to be created through the project and the National High Speed Rail College will play a key role in training young people for the opportunities.
There will be two of these education centres – one in Birmingham’s university district and another in the Doncaster Lakeside area.
Both of the sites are expected to open around September or October 2017 and will provide a plethora of additional resources to successfully prepare people for the upcoming roles.
The centres will go some way in assisting the skills gap in the engineering sector, with UK businesses expected to need around 87,000 graduate-level contract engineers every year for the next decade.
Independent professionals could also have a key role to play, with so many roles likely to pop up in the coming months, those with experience could end up being especially useful.
While the government’s HS2 colleges will be very effective in training new contractors for the vacancies, the expertise of existing construction specialists could prove to be invaluable.
Beth West, commercial director for HS2 Ltd, commented on the plans, noting that the network provides an opportunity to increase productivity and growth, while boosting the country’s international competitiveness.