The Government’s long-awaited high-speed rail line is about to become reality, bringing with it thousands of jobs and procurement opportunities.
The proposed new high-speed rail route known as HS2 won Parliamentary approval in February following a lengthy debate. The initial proposal was for a line that could one day be extended to Scotland, but the current plans extend only to two phases: an initial line from London to Birmingham, and then two lines linking up Birmingham with Manchester and Leeds.
The first phase is scheduled for completion in 2026, with the second phase scheduled to be finished by 2033, although there are concerns about whether this is realistic.
Proposals for a dedicated station at Sheffield, near Meadowhall, have been scrapped, with some trains instead heading directly into the city centre through existing lines. Other stations, including Liverpool and York, will also link up with the HS2 line using the current network while current plans include new stations at Manchester Piccadilly, in Leeds and the East Midlands.
There has been controversy concerning many different aspects of the project, despite the fact that HS2 enjoys cross-party support. Some have questioned whether the project represents value for money, or whether investment could be better targeted towards other parts of the rail network.
The Government, though, believes the project will significantly reduce congestion, cutting 9 million road journeys and 4.5 million air trips a year. A 2013 report by KPMG claimed the project could boost the UK economy by £15 billion a year, although this will not be realised in full until 2037.
In July, the Government announced the winners of £6.6 billion worth of contracts on the first phase of the project, with Carillion, Costain and Balfour Beatty chosen to build bridges, tunnels and embankments.
This alone is expected to generate 16,000 jobs.
These contracts are expected to create 7,000 contract opportunities within the supply chain, of which 60 per cent are expected to go to small firms. HS2 has already held a number of events to ensure small businesses are involved in the project, including regional roadshows and Meet the Contractor events.
FSB has been working with HS2 to make sure that small businesses are able to benefit from the project as construction begins, and that small business friendly contract terms are passed down through the supply chain.