Good afternoon everyone.
It’s great to see so many of you here today (23 October 2014).
With over 750 delegates representing more than 500 companies.
From small technology specialists to global infrastructure developers.
All linked by a common purpose.
To be part of the biggest rail project in this country since Queen Victoria was on the throne.
And the most exciting engineering scheme in Britain for generations.
One of the words you’ve heard a lot today is “momentum”.
Because the HS2 programme is entering a new phase.
And it’s moving forward, fast.
The fundamental case for the new line has been made.
Capacity. Regeneration. Connectivity. So I won’t go on.
What matters, is the debate has shifted now.
From whether we should build HS2, to how we should build it.
And how the rest of the transport network should link with the new railway.
Because in infrastructure terms, HS2 is just around the corner.
Subject to royal assent, construction on Phase One starts in just 3 years’ time.
The Bill’s been making excellent progress through Parliament.
It is now moving through the committee stage.
Backed by overwhelming cross-party support.
And that’s vital.
Because it sends a message to you that HS2 will happen.
Phase One and Phase Two.
But there’s another reason why you should plan ahead with confidence.
And that’s the record of this government over the past 4 and a half years.
We said we’d get Britain growing again and we have. This country now has the fastest growing economy of any major developed nation.
We said that investment in infrastructure would be at the heart of our growth strategy and it is.
When you look at where we were 4 and a half years ago, we’ve made massive progress.
Not so long ago, a British government would have raided the transport budget in times of austerity.
Found an excuse to delay Crossrail and the Northern Hub.
And derail HS2.
But we did the opposite.
We made transport a central part of our strategy for growth and jobs.
We developed a national infrastructure plan.
Providing a steady and predictable chain of schemes over time.
All backed by record investment.
But of all the infrastructure schemes in the plan, HS2 is the biggest.
The question is, how to grasp that opportunity and exploit it to the full.
That’s what today has been all about.
My thanks to Simon, David, Beth and Alistair.
For providing such a detailed update on HS2 progress.
But this event is also a chance for you to get together.
A chance for you to meet your fellow suppliers.
To share ideas.
And maybe see if there’s potential to work together.
This is your event as much as it’s ours.
Because now that we’re nearing the procurement stage, HS2 is as much yours as ours.
All of us have a stake in this.
And all of us are learning as we progress.
That’s what makes it so exciting.
We in government are learning how to ease a project of this size through planning and procurement.
And to inspire pride in British engineering.
The rail industry is learning to become less risk-averse.
To embrace new technologies and new ways of working.
And you are here today to learn more about opportunities for the supply chain.
So you can find the answers to the questions that HS2 poses.
Increasingly, the spotlight is turning on you.
Because it’s now that we start to harness the innovation and creativity of the supply chain.
The HS2 Growth Taskforce encouraged us to consult with you early.
To set new standards for industry engagement.
And to provide opportunities for businesses of all sizes.
And that’s what we’ve done.
We listened and responded to what you told us.
Your feedback has been instrumental in the design of our procurement strategy.
For example, in the key areas of skills and apprenticeships.
We’ve now committed to at least 2,000 HS2 apprentices.
More than double the number created by the London Olympics and Crossrail together.
And skills is now one of our strategic priorities.
That was re-affirmed recently when we announced the new National College for High Speed Rail.
Giving specialist vocational training to the next generation of engineers working on HS2 and beyond.
So the positive and open dialogue we’ve developed over the past year has been crucial.
And let me assure you that it will continue as we move ahead.
Before I finish, I’d like to make one last observation.
We’ve proved in this country that we do have what it takes to deliver world class rail infrastructure.
We’ve built High Speed 1.
St Pancras and King’s Cross.
A fantastic Olympic Games.
The Northern Hub underway.
Of course HS2 is on a different scale to any of these schemes.
But when I see the diversity and expertise of our supply chain in this country.
And when I see how much enthusiasm there is for this project.
I know that the future of HS2 is in excellent hands.
So thank you for coming today.
Thank you for your interest in this momentous project.
Now let’s make HS2 something that Manchester, and Britain, can be proud of.