Good afternoon everyone.
And thanks for that introduction and welcome.
The Secretary of State is very sorry he couldn’t be here today (5 November 2014). Though I’m delighted to take his place. I would like to talk about 3 things today.
First, to review where we are on our HS2 journey.
Second to talk about the real, and possibly unexpected benefits HS2 is delivering in terms of engagement across transport.
And third to gently challenge, you the experts, along with the rest of the industry, to move from thinking of the passenger railway as an engineering puzzle to be solved.
To thinking of it as a service that facilitates the movement of people.
The HS2 journey
Well, we’ve come a long way since the Conservatives first proposed a new high speed rail network for Britain. Plans developed in opposition were taken forward in government. The case for the new HS2 line has been made, around capacity, regeneration, connectivity.
And the debate has moved on from whether to build HS2. To how we should build it. There’s real pace and progress to HS2 now. As we move from planning to procurement And as the Bill completes its journey through Parliament. And that’s important.
Because breaking ground on HS2 is really just around the corner. Subject to royal assent, construction starts in 3 years’ time. We’ve gained valuable experience building world class infrastructure in recent years.
Britain does Big Engineering again
After High Speed 1, and Terminal 5 at Heathrow, we staged one of the best Olympic Games in history. And we’re building Crossrail and Thameslink together.
We’re fortunate to have many major companies helping us deliver these schemes. But we also understand that for smaller companies. Suppliers, technology providers, designers, engineers. Gearing up for HS2 presents a challenge and a risk.
They have to be confident that their efforts will be worthwhile. That this project won’t go the same way as countless others over the past few decades. Well our message to the industry today is this: Plan ahead with confidence. Be ambitious. Because HS2 will be built – both Phases. On time and on budget.
This isn’t just another transport scheme. It’s part of the promise we made to the country. The promise we made to get our economy motoring again. And to get people working again with the security and dignity of a pay packet. And the promise we made to put transport at the heart of our growth strategy. It’s not just transport ministers saying this. It’s the Prime Minister and the Chancellor.
And vitally, we’ve secured overwhelming cross-party support for the Bill in Parliament. So when you look at where we were four and a half years ago, we’ve made considerable progress.
Not so long ago, a British government would have raided the rail budget in times of austerity. But we did the opposite. Because transport, and indeed infrastructure investment is a vital component of economic growth. It’s mandatory, not optional, if you believe Britain’s best days are ahead.
We’re changing the way Britain thinks about infrastructure and transport. And of all the schemes we’re taking forward, HS2 is the biggest. Nothing else will provide Britain with the space it needs to prosper. Nothing else will offer the same transformational impact on cities like Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds.
And nothing else will provide such opportunities for the railway industry. The question is, how to exploit those opportunities to the full.
Which brings me to my second point- engagement.
I, like others, have been surprised and delighted to see what is happening on the ground in the cities HS2 will reach, and the broader impact on the rail supply chain. As the project develops, the momentum is spreading from central government to the regions.
That is why we are supporting the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership with £2.5 million. To develop a locally-led HS2 Growth Strategy. The experience of Birmingham and Solihull preparing for HS2 may be used as a model for other cities during Phase 2. We are also urging different regions and groups to collaborate.
One such collaboration is Midlands Connect, a strong partnership between Midlands LEPs, Network Rail, the Highways Agency, local authorities, and business. We’ll also see greater partnerships in the north – to create the Northern Powerhouse that the Chancellor has spoken about in recent months.
In Manchester, a directly elected Mayor will gain powers over transport. And 5 Northern cities have come together to propose the One North transport plan. We’ve consulted with suppliers early, so they’re ready for what’s to come. This was something the HS2 Growth Taskforce encouraged us to do.
Just as it asked us to make opportunities accessible for businesses of all sizes. We’ve listened and responded to what you told us. Your feedback has been instrumental in the development of our procurement strategy. For example in the key areas of skills and apprenticeships.
We’ve now committed to at least 2,000 apprentices through HS2. More than double the number created by the Olympics and Crossrail together. And skills is now one of our strategic priorities for procurement.
That was re-affirmed recently when we announced that the new National College for High Speed Rail will be based in Birmingham, with a further site in Doncaster. Giving specialist vocational training to the next generation of engineers working on HS2 and beyond. So the dialogue we’ve developed over the past year has been crucial.
More than 589 separate businesses attended our London supply chain conference. And 518 were there in Manchester. So the response has been fantastic. And we will continue to engage with the industry.
But I also want to engage with a group who sometimes feel as if they have come last in railway thinking in recent years…..passengers.
HS2 is the first new north-south railway in this country since Queen Victoria was on the throne. And that gives us a clean slate. To think about how we put the passenger at the very centre of everything we do.
Rolling stock; station facilities; marketing; ticketing; web strategy; social media; links to other transport. With HS2, we are starting afresh. And that will reflect on the rest of the railway. Where the industry is not delivering for passengers today.
It’s a wake up call. Passengers aren’t numbers or market share. They’re people, with very human concerns about the service they’re getting. We need to earn back their trust. And I must say stories all over the media about station ticket machines that give passengers a different price to that at the ticket counter is not the way to do it.
That sent out a terrible message. And it reflected on the whole railway. Detracting from the really exciting message that this is genuinely the start of a renaissance for rail.
We’re not just building HS2. We’re spending £38 billion on the existing network over the next 5 years. That money will help deal with the overcrowding that has come about from booming demand. But that is not enough
We should be an industry that delivers exceptional customer service. An industry focused on every passenger as an individual. But we hear every day that passengers are unhappy. We need to do better.
So I’ll make this commitment.
Whatever you do to make passengers happy. That’s practical and affordable and can happen now. We’ll support it.
Just because the rail industry hasn’t done it before doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. Just because it’s not specified in a franchise agreement also doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. As long as it results in better journeys, better value, or better service, we’ll consider it.
But we want YOU to do what it takes to make your passengers happy. Tell us about it afterwards. Or tell us first if you need help and support. And share it with other operators too. My team are great at many things
But we are not running Britain’s railway – you are. Having said that, I know the importance of the Department “signalling” what it wants to see.
So signal 1 says: You are moving people, not rolling stock
And signal 2 says: we need shorter-term solutions to overcrowding across the country, especially on non-electrified track – perhaps it is time to look at buying or building some clean, complaint DMUs
Because passengers are fed up waiting for change. The real goal is getting people to feel as if they have a stake in their railway. And that they see the benefits now. In railway speak, CP6 is just around the corner
In human terms, it’s an age – a child born today will be in their second year of Primary school before we get there. We want people to feel proud of our rail industry again. And let me take a moment to commend something that is happening UK-wide and is having that effect.
Up and down the country, grassroots organisations are doing fantastic work linking local railways with the communities they serve. From station refurbishments, to secure travel schemes, artworks, gardens and initiatives to support local tourism. The range of projects is remarkable.
And there’s a strong link here with HS2. HS2 is stimulating debate at local levels about a whole host of issues.
How to improve connectivity with other transport networks.
How it can help communities.
There’s real excitement about the possibilities. So let’s use that enthusiasm to raise standards on the wider network.
As HS2 develops, this momentum will grow. And let me tell you - we’re not just looking beyond Phase One, from London to Birmingham. We’re looking beyond Phase Two.
That’s why the Prime Minister has given the green light to develop HS3. The east-west high speed link connecting the north’s great cities. Proposed by Sir David Higgins. This would be the biggest ever investment by a British government in the north of England. So HS2 is just the start.
We’re ambitious about what we can achieve with HS2. So the industry should be ambitious too. We’re about to embark on a hugely exciting venture. A new railway that won’t just be fast, wonderful to travel on, and stunningly designed.
But will also be an engine for growth. A catalyst for change - in our cities, our communities, our economy, and ultimately our country.
But let’s also use it as a catalyst for change on the classic railway. A new start for passengers, too. A chance to make all of us proud of our great British railways