Good morning everyone.
I’m delighted to be in Edinburgh today (5 November 2015).
In a city - and a country - famous for innovation and opportunity.
The railways, too, have long delivered both.
Indeed, you have to go back to as long ago as 1772 to find the first Scottish railway - the horse-drawn Tranent and Cockenzie Waggonway in East Lothian, which was built to haul coal to the harbour on wooden rails.
But by 1842, when the Edinburgh and Glasgow line opened, and 1848, when the link to the English network was launched, the railways had become big business.
With structures like the Forth Bridge, Scotland has a special place in railway history.
But it also has a special place in our railway future too.
Because there’s a thriving supply chain here.
A long established, yet cutting edge supply chain that we need to build HS2.
The debate over whether HS2 will happen is behind us.
Let me assure you, HS2 is happening, and it’s time to get ready.
Before the election, we put HS2 in our manifesto as part of our plan to rebalance the economy.
To transform Britain’s infrastructure by creating new connectivity.
To release much-needed capacity.
To secure thousands of skilled apprenticeships and jobs across the country.
It was a vision backed by the electorate.
In the meantime the HS2 Bill is making steady progress through the House of Commons.
In the coming year, it is set to pass through the hybrid Bill committee and reach third reading.
And we are on track to receive Royal Assent by the end of next year.
We’ve been making other important progress too.
Over the summer we recruited HS2’s design panel, led by Sadie Morgan.
Her team of designers will help decide how HS2 will look and feel.
Their brief is to design a railway that not only works for passengers, but also for communities along the route.
We welcomed back a great champion of the project, Lord Adonis – who has joined HS2 Ltd’s board.
And we’ve continued to engage with communities to fine-tune local plans, so HS2 meets the very highest
standards of design and construction, and soon we will announce how we’ll take forward HS2’s northern sections from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.
But the most significant development recently has been the start of the bidding process for Phase One.
With contracts worth over £10 billion, this is a major milestone for the project.
It is the starting gun for the supply chain to be part of the biggest UK infrastructure scheme since the coming of the motorways.
We are starting the procurement process now so that the contracts can be signed as soon as the Bill has passed.
Over the next decade, the successful bidders will build 230 kilometres of bridges, tunnels and earthworks, requiring some of the largest value contracts in UK construction history, 60% of which we expect to be awarded to small and medium sized businesses.
We need everything from architects to aggregates, steel and surveyors, and engineers to environmental consultants.
So there are thousands of opportunities.
That’s why HS2 Ltd has visited Scotland to engage firms interested in bidding.
We estimate that HS2 will create 25,000 jobs during construction and 3,000 jobs when in operation.
Not just on site, but right across the UK – including here in Scotland.
But this also presents us with a major challenge.
Because on top of the skilled professionals we need for HS2, our investment in existing rail and road schemes is creating another 20,000 jobs.
And that’s at the same time as we need skilled people for all our other great projects such as flood defences and nuclear power stations.
We are investing £100 billion over the next five years to modernise Britain’s infrastructure.
£70 billion of which is allocated for transport.
All this investment, and all these contracts, mean we will need many more engineers, surveyors, construction workers, planners, drainage experts and even arboriculturists.
So we are getting ready now.
We are transforming apprenticeships, with a commitment to train three million by 2020, including 30,000 new rail and road apprenticeships in this Parliament.
We are working with suppliers to achieve this, so when they bid for work, they will also pledge to take on trainees, apprentices and graduates, and equip the workforce with the skills they need for the long-term.
And we are supporting specialised colleges.
The Crossrail Tunnelling Academy.
The National Training Academy for Rail.
And in 2017, we will open the National College for High Speed Rail.
But we also need to attract a much bigger pool of talent – and to achieve that, we must make a career in infrastructure more appealing to a wider selection of youngsters – including those in Scotland.
The message we’re sending with HS2 is that engineering qualifications will set youngsters up for an exciting career in a fast growing industry.
As I said at the start, Scotland has a proud tradition of producing great engineers – and with HS2, we want to attract a new generation who can continue that tradition.
Let’s not forget as we move forward with the programme that HS2 will not only deliver jobs, growth and opportunities for suppliers in Scotland.
It will also deliver faster, better, more comfortable journeys for Scottish passengers right from the start.
When Phase One opens in 2026 between London and Birmingham, the new high speed trains will run to Scotland.
For the first time, rail journeys from Scotland to London will be cut to less than 4 hours.
And when the second phase of HS2 opens in 2033, the trip will be reduced to 3 hours and 38 minutes, with a seamless transition of trains onto the East and West Coast main lines.
All in all, the full benefit to the Scottish economy will be around £3 billion.
That’s why we’re working closely with the Scottish government to ensure we maximise the opportunities.
And we hope to make a statement on next steps in the new year.
So to sum up.
Today, we’re urging Scotland to embrace HS2, just as you embraced the railway in the Victorian era.
This is a national railway with national benefits - benefits to passengers, businesses and to thousands of people who will work on this incredible project.
And we want Scotland to be a massive part of HS2’s success.
So make the most of this event.
And make the most of all the opportunities that will follow.