Substantial construction projects are never universally popular. Some protest groups have environmental concerns or worries over personal blight; others don’t like the cost to the public purse. It’s fair to say the HS2 project, with its first link between London and Birmingham, has had more detractors than most.
With talk of costs spiralling “out of control”, of landowners being robbed of fair compensation for loss of their land, and of substantial environmental impact, it’s a wonder the high-speed rail project has progressed further than a twinkle in the Government’s eye.
But for the construction industry, major projects like HS2 present huge opportunities and substantial contracts. The trickle-down effect for employment, sub-contractors and building suppliers cannot be underestimated.
What is certain is there will be vacancies for construction personnel and ideal starting positions for graduates of civil engineering.
London plans revealed
Earlier this month, HS2 revealed the construction teams that had been awarded contracts to deliver both the so-called super-hub Old Oak Common station and the Euston terminus in London.
The top line figures are impressive, with the combined deals said to be worth £2.56 billion and expected to attract 4,000 jobs. Contractors will be expected to deliver the two stations, platforms, concourses, links to other rail services and the London Underground network.
The Euston project, which will double the station’s capacity, has been awarded to Mace Limited and Dragados S.A. It is expected this aspect of HS2 will free up much of the West Coast main line for more freight and commuter traffic.
Dragado has worked previously on delivering Spain’s high-speed rail services, while Mace has previous experience in London, working on Battersea Power Station.
Meanwhile, the contracts for Old Oak Common station, just south of Willesden Junction in north London, has been awarded to Vinci Construction, Systra Ltd and Balfour Beatty. The futuristic station design includes high-speed underground platforms and a connection to the Elizabeth Line.
Mark Thurston, the HS2 chief executive, said the two London projects would attract thousands of jobs to the wider London community, on top of the construction work. “Together with our Birmingham stations, they will transform the way we travel and set new standards for design, construction and operation,” he explained.
The plans revealed recently for Old Oak Common have generated much excitement. With a futuristic look, the site will help regenerate a large parcel of land in London. The station is set to be the most connected in the whole of the UK, with services spinning off to the Midlands, the north and to Scotland. There will also be access to London and Heathrow Airport via the Crossrail service. There will be room for further expansion linking Wales and the west of England.
Due to open in 2026, the vision for Old Oak Common is that up to 65,000 jobs and eventually 25,500 new homes could spring up on the former industrial land around it, providing an estimated £15 billion economic boost over 30 years.
While those impressive numbers bring huge employment and revenue benefits for the construction industry and the wider community, they have done nothing to extinguish the flames of anger from protestors.
With work already well under way at various locations along the London to Birmingham route, some protests have spilt over into physical action, a sign perhaps of more to come.
In November, four environmental protestors caused disruption at Hillingdon by shackling themselves on a nature reserve where work was about to start. They claimed the reserve is home to wildlife including bats, osprey and owls.
However, HS2 say the rail line, which will be capable of carrying 1,100 passengers on each train at speeds up to 250mph, the fastest in Europe, will create a green corridor between London and Britain’s second city.
An HS2 spokesman told The Guardian newspaper: “It will be made up of woodland, wildlife habitats and amenity facilities, designed to blend the line into the landscape and leave a lasting legacy of high-quality green spaces all along the route.”
Environmental concerns are not the only main gripe being levelled by those against HS2. The spiralling cost of the project has got many hot under the collar. The cost of the first phase is £24 billion – expected to rise to £56 billion for the whole line.
That aside, if you’re looking for a job in the construction industry, then HS2 presents opportunities galore.Opportunities