Jessica Tabinor engineering
Earlier this month, the prime minister, Boris Johnson announced that the long-awaited HS2 will go ahead in full, providing the perfect platform to develop a highly-skilled workforce across numerous technical sectors.
As talent specialists for numerous technical sectors, including rail and engineering, we welcome the decision to ‘officially’ begin construction on the high-speed line. The move will work to carve out rewarding careers for tens of thousands of white- and blue-collar workers and open a clear pipeline to drive the next generation of engineers.
Another later announcement on the 21st February saw the Department for Transport outlining exactly what the Integrated Rail Plan entails, and this includes making sure all projects tie-in to drive down costs and deliver the best connectivity as possible. As a result, a plan has been created to establish how best to integrate HS2 Phase 2b and the wider Midlands transport network.
In the coming months, the Government will be considering the Midlands as part of the wider HS2 plan which will include a proposed £2billion programme to improve the Midlands rail network, dubbed the Midlands Rail Hub, providing better connections between London and the North.
The £2billion project will see the “Victorian infrastructure” regenerated to cut journey times between Nottingham and Birmingham to 59 minutes, increase one train per hour between two major cities and feature reduced journey times to Coventry.
However, to achieve this and HS2 in general, a focus needs to be placed on efficiently sourcing the labour that is required to deliver the scheme and bridging the skills gap that we are facing.
Figures released in September 2018 show that demand for construction labour during phases 1 and 2a will reach approx. 30,000 workers, peaking within the next two years. Additionally, the total number of rail specialists required to deliver Phases 1 and 2a will peak at around 6,800 during the years 2025/2026.
The Department for Transport's announcement comes shortly after the Oakervee review, which concluded the Phase 2b route - from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds - needs to be a Y-shaped network as the best strategic answer for the country.
It also concluded, as the DoT says, that "that Phase 2b needs to be considered as part of an Integrated Rail Plan for the north and Midlands which also includes Northern Powerhouse Rail, Midlands Rail Hub, and other major Network Rail schemes to ensure these are scoped, designed, delivered, and can be operated as an integrated network."
What are the next steps? The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) will be assessing the possibility of future work by looking at the rail needs of the Midlands against the plans that have been proposed. Watch this space!