July 13, 2024

HS2 rail delay will dent investor and contractor confidence, say experts

Industry worker or engineer working on industry project at work site. Engineering people solution service concept.

Short-term government thinking will also dissuade young people from joining construction and engineering professions, says Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors

The Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (CICES) has questioned the logic behind the government’s decision to delay the Birmingham to Crewe leg of the HS2 high-speed rail project.

The internationally renowned organisation, based in Sale, Greater Manchester, has raised concerns about the government’s short-term thinking after last week’s announcement of a two-year delay, and has urged the Chancellor to think again.

CICES says it will cause a major decline in confidence in the rail and infrastructure sectors, impact jobs and livelihoods and businesses in the Midlands, will make it difficult to attract talent and dissuade young people from taking up careers in infrastructure.

Simon Hamlyn, CEO at the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (CICES), said: “The government talks about levelling-up but when it comes to the crunch it’s always the north which loses out. We need long-term thinking and investment now, not short-term decision making and delays which will have a long-term effect on jobs, livelihoods, businesses and young people’s careers.

“Saving money now on the northern part of HS2 makes no economic sense since costs will rise further down the line.

“We are hugely disappointed by the government’s decision and would urge an eleventh-hour rethink. The Chancellor still has time to reverse this decision when he stands up in the Commons to deliver Wednesday’s Budget statement.”

 

Stephen Slessor, Immediate Past President of CICES, said: “The HS2 network should have linked eight out of ten of the UK’s largest cities, providing employment opportunities and boosting the economy while reducing road emissions and traffic congestion. This delay will negatively impact investor and contractor confidence in the rail sector and infrastructure sectors and inevitably jobs and livelihoods for many people and SMEs in the Midlands.

“It is important to avoid delays in large sections of HS2 despite current inflationary pressures as this would increase overall costs and hinder the UK’s transition to a more sustainable economy while putting in jeopardy Net Zero targets.

“The UK Government should tackle these issues head-on and focus on driving revenues rather than just reducing costs, to close the financial gap and reduce the railway’s reliance on taxpayer funding. In my view, investing in large-scale infrastructure projects like HS2 is necessary for the UK’s long-term economic growth and environmental sustainability.”

 

Alison Watson MBE, Vice President of CICES, said: “This delay to HS2 is likely to have a significant impact on young people entering the sector, especially those who are encouraged to seek apprenticeships in infrastructure, not to mention that it is likely to undermine careers advice in general.

“Given the annual rhetoric about the thousands of people who are needed to ‘join the construction sector to meet demand’, it hardly gives young people confidence that our industry is reliably going to offer employment – and only adds to the ‘north-south divide’.

 

CICES recently hosted the prestigious Manchester Lecture on the “Northern Powerhouse – Levelling Up in the North West’.