Phase one alone will create 16,000 jobs

Despite the best efforts of environmentalists, wealthy estate-owners and bean counters, one of the country’s major infrastructure projects is back on track.

After years of wrangling it looks like HS2 will be happening after the government got the ball rolling by announcing which contractors will build phase one of the £55.7bn rail line.

Plans for the mega-project, which will eventually connect London to Manchester and Leeds, were initially explored back in 2009 under the then Labour government but gathered pace under the coalition and then the Conservatives' 'Northern Powerhouse' vision.

Do we need HS2?

Along with the Heathrow expansion and Crossrail in London - not to mention Hinkley Point in Somerset - HS2 is one of the biggest and most exciting builds in Europe and marks a statement of intent for Brexit Britain. But do we really need it?

Phase one to Birmingham isn’t expected to be completed until 2026 and critics point to a history of big government projects being delivered late and going over budget. 

The Tax Payers Alliance called HS2 a white elephant and a “big mistake” while Friends of the Earth reckon the money should be spent on enhancing the nation’s current railway system.

It hasn’t been an easy ride so far for HS2 but Britain needs it. 

HS2 will bridge north/south divide.

Look at a map of the proposed route and you’ll see it juts out of the capital, north through the Chilterns in Buckinghamshire before arriving in Birmingham. Phase two, due for completion in 2033, will see the line fork out from there to Manchester and Leeds. HS2 will become the country’s spine.

This is important as for too long the economy has been lop-sided towards London and the south east and particularly the enormous service sectors there. HS2 will connect the country and help redistribute wealth to areas that can often feel neglected by Westminster. 

Massive job creation.

Phase one alone will create 16,000 jobs and at a time when EU nationals could be weighing up their future in the UK, HS2 is one of the ways we can retain talent as well as attract it. 

One of the areas HS2 can impact is the recruitment of female engineers. The Women’s Engineering Society estimates just 9% of the engineering workforce is female and highlights a bleak future with just 16% of engineering and technology undergraduates in the UK are female.

Getting women into construction is essential to the sustainability of our industry and projects like HS2 could play a huge role in inspiring the next generation. 

- Owen Goodhead is managing director of Randstad Construction, Property and Engineering.

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