Who will build HS2?

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

How to deliver HS2 in a way which is a credit to the UK.

Good morning.

It is fantastic to be back at the Institute for Civil Engineers and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Professor Begg and Transport Times for organising today’s (11 September 2014) conference.

Looking at the agenda for today’s event, I’m sure the discussion is going to be just as incisive as the contents of the magazine.

After the deepest recession in our peacetime history, the economy is growing once again.

Business investment is increasing.

And unemployment is falling.

But the global economy is changing.

Partly as a result, demand for transport is increasing.

For example, businesses increasingly rely on just-in-time delivery to keep costs down and people are commuting longer distances than in the past.

So when businesses are deciding where to invest or people are deciding where to live the reliability and the extent of the transport connections nearby are absolutely critical.

Good rail connections are a vital part of that mix.

The good news is that, since privatisation, Britain’s railways have been a huge success story.

From an industry that once was thought to be in terminal decline.

Today the railway carries more people than ever before and huge amounts more freight.

And the projections are that demand will increase further over the coming years.

By 2026 peak demand will be 2 and a half times the capacity at Euston, twice the capacity at Birmingham New Street, and nearly twice the capacity at Manchester Piccadilly.

That is why, as part of our long term economic plan, we are investing £38 billion over Control Period 5 to improve and expand our existing railway.

And it is why, in just 3 years’ time, we will start building High Speed 2.

HS2 will provide the capacity required to move the people and goods that will be needed in the future.

And it will provide the connectivity that’s needed - particularly for the great cities in the north - to grow and thrive.

As today’s organisers have suggested, the debate on HS2 is moving on from whether it should happen to how we deliver the project in a way which is a credit to the UK.

I am pleased to say that there is a broad political consensus behind HS2.

When the hybrid bill for the first phase of HS2 was before Parliament in April we had a resounding victory: 452 votes in favour and just 41 against.

But that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped listening to those with concerns about the railway.

Building a project of this scale will affect a large number of people and we need to consider their concerns very carefully.

Now the bill is in the committee phase, where - quite rightly - MPs will carefully consider our plans and hear from those with concerns.

We received just under 2,000 petitions in total, though some of those have since been withdrawn or removed.

We are making good progress through the bill committee process and have already managed to address a number of the concerns people have raised.

We will keep listening and where we can make the bill better, we will do so.

But we will also keep up our momentum.

We will keep the process moving forward.

An important milestone will be setting out our plans for the redevelopment of Euston.

The Secretary of State has asked HS2 Ltd to look again at the plans for Euston as we believe they could be more ambitious.

I was asked to consider how HS2 can be delivered in a way which is a credit to the UK.

When you think about that, you recall that some places have become a byword for quality.

There’s Switzerland for watches, Wimbledon for tennis, or Yorkshire for cricket or indeed just about anything!

Well, we want HS2 to make Britain synonymous with world class high speed rail.

For that to happen, I think we need to do 3 things.

First, we need to build HS2 on time.

Second, we need to build it on budget.

And, as Sir David Higgins has said, the best way to do that is to get on with the job.

Unfortunately, this country has had an ignominious tradition of dithering and delay when it comes to major infrastructure projects.

But, thanks to many people in this room, that’s changing.

Take just 2 recent examples.

Reading station.

A vital artery, one of the busiest on the network outside of London.

Rebuilt on budget and a year ahead of schedule while keeping the station open and without compromising on safety.

You may have seen that Her Majesty the Queen opened the new Reading station.

Just as she also recently opened the Heathrow’s new Terminal 2.

Her Majesty actually opened Reading station when it was last rebuilt in 1989.

Just as she opened the last Terminal 2.

So I’m very pleased to say, that Her Majesty’s actually outlasting the infrastructure!

As well as Reading, there’s also Crossrail.

A £15 billion investment in the country’s future.

Now some people worry that they are their own worst critic.

I don’t.

But then not everyone has the luxury of the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC’s) watchful eye.

Now we all know that Margaret Hodge and the Public Accounts Committee are not the government’s biggest cheerleaders.

That’s why I was delighted that, according to the PAC, Crossrail is not only an example of world-class engineering it is also an example of ‘textbook’ project management that ‘is on course to deliver value for money to the taxpayer’.

The third thing that is needed to make HS2 a credit to the UK, is for it to be of the highest quality.

We mean it when we say we want it to make the country proud.

Like Gresley’s Mallard, McAlpine’s Glenfinnan viaduct and Barlow’s train shed at St Pancras we want HS2 to show what Great British design and engineering can achieve.

That doesn’t mean a blank cheque.

We are very conscious of the need to protect taxpayers’ investment.

That’s why we are determined to deliver a railway that provides real and lasting value for money but not to pinch the pennies.

Just a couple of years ago, this country showed the world how to stage an Olympic games.

If you have a moment later do take a look at the paintings in the café bar and lower foyer of this building.

They have a series of pictures commissioned by the Institute that show the major construction and infrastructure projects that were needed for the success of London 2012.

The London Olympics became a badge of honour for those that were involved.

And we want the people and businesses who will build HS2 to be just as proud of their work.

And we want being involved with HS2 to establish their reputation for quality overseas.

HS2 is a huge project.

Our most up to date estimates indicate that while HS2 is being built it will create around 25,000 full-time equivalent construction and maintenance jobs, excluding jobs in the supply chain.

HS2 have listened to you and have developed their outline procurement strategy as a result of your feedback.

They will shortly be setting out how they are going to approach the market and will give you an indication of when you will see work packages.

They’ll also be setting out their position on joint ventures and alliancing.

Businesses will be able to win well over £10 billion of contracts to help HS2 Ltd deliver Phase One of Britain’s new high speed railway.

Part of the challenge will be ensuring that you have the people with the skills that are needed.

Crossrail has shown the benefits of investing in training.

There are over 400 new apprentices in trades and professions from construction to accountancy and quantity surveying to business administration.

We want to use HS2 to build the long term skills base of the country.

That’s why I was delighted that Terry Morgan is advising us on the creation of the new high speed rail college.

It will equip the engineers of the future with the skills they need.

Ensuring UK firms have the people and the reputation that comes from building a world class railway to successfully compete for the 30,000 kilometres of high speed rail that are planned or under construction around the world.

Last week I met Steve Scrimshaw and I know Siemens are keen for their new national training academy for rail to become to a spoke to the high speed rail college hub.

I think that’s a great example of how Siemens and the rest of Britain’s rail industry is leading the way investing to improve skills and creating good jobs.

If you want to find out more about the £10 billion of supply chain opportunities that are coming with HS2 the next HS2 supply chain conference will take place in London on 17 October and Manchester on 23 October.

When visitors from overseas come to Britain, they often remark on the quality of our rail heritage.

And I think it is something we are quite rightly proud of in this country.

We want HS2 to make people come here to admire Britain’s rail future.

For it to be something that showcases just what Britain can do.

And we want it to establish the reputation of the people who build it.

That means it needs to be delivered on time and on budget and for it to be an example of world class design and engineering.

My ambition is for that to happen.

I’m sure it is yours too.

So let’s get on with the job.

And build a brilliant railway.

Thank you for listening.