Transport secretary Justine Greening announced yesterday that a hybrid bill will be put through parliament to enable work to begin on phase 1 of HS2 in 2016. Phase 2, which will run to Leeds and Manchester, could be completed by 2033.
The Association for Consultancy & Engineering (ACE) chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin said: “This is a strong commitment from the government that it will invest in infrastructure to strengthen growth over the long term. The UK has slipped behind international competitors on the quality of its infrastructure and HS2, along with other investment in the National Infrastructure Plan, can help to reverse that.”
Mr Ogunshakin added: “Industry is pleased to see broad cross-party support for HS2.The transport select committee reported that no alternative to HS2 offered the increased rail capacity and there is general agreement that the project will pay economic dividends. We hope this will see challenges and public concerns resolved quickly and constructively so as to get the project underway without delays.”
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) described yesterday’s announcement as a ‘phenomenal’ opportunity for industry, while calling for early engagement with contractors to streamline delivery of the project.
CECA director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner said: “The announcement of the go-ahead for the first phase of High Speed 2 is both a phenomenal opportunity for industry, but also an enormous challenge.
“The delivery of HS2 both on time and to budget will confirm the strengths of the UK infrastructure sector at home and abroad.
“Nonetheless, the decisions that are being made now have the potential to have a huge impact on the delivery of the project. It would be hugely beneficial for those contractors who will be working on HS2 to be involved in the development of the project, even at this early stage.
“CECA is looking forward to working closely with HS2, so that industry can provide the benefit of its experience to deliver what will be one of the UK’s most significant infrastructure projects.”
The Institution of Civil Engineers also backed the decision. Steve Hayter, chair of the ICE’s HS2 expert panel said: “We agree that the opportunity should be taken to invest in a new railway that is fit for the 21st century – significantly increasing capacity, strengthening connectivity between our city-regions and boosting the UK economy in the long term. The time to invest is now and we endorse the government’s strategy.
“Going forwards, a robust and effective high speed railway that achieves the environmental and economic aims must have the very strongest commitment and support, both politically and financially. Government should also now develop an integrated transport policy that serves the nation’s future transport needs – HS2 in itself can only form part of that plan and ideally should not be developed in isolation.”
On the decision to add extra tunnels, Mr Hayter added: “Government’s willingness to exploring different engineering options to minimise the impact on those communities affected must be welcomed. Tunnelling on this scale is a proven, effective engineering solution with many advantages. Engineers will now stand ready to do what they do best - overcoming any challenges and ensuring the project succeeds.”
Construction union Ucatt also backs the scheme, saying that it will help to better distribute jobs and investment throughout Britain.
New general secretary Steve Murphy said: “The development of high speed rail will provide a vital shot in the arm to the whole country especially regions which have suffered from under investment for decades.
“The project will create thousands of construction jobs initially while the line is being built and in the long term as these vital improvements in infrastructure will encourage future investment opportunities.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey was also positive: "Unite welcomes the government's go-ahead. This is a crucial infrastructure project that will create jobs and relieve congestion. HS2 will create thousands of construction and engineering jobs and it will create jobs in the rail industry in the long term.”
However, with one eye on the scheme’s opponents, he added: "While we support HS2, the union still has some concerns over the route and the links and the potential impact on local communities, which we hope will be resolved before construction begins."