Robert Goodwill: HS2 chance for Scots firms to win contracts

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Today I have the pleasure of meeting Scottish businesses large and small who will gather in Edinburgh to find out how they can best compete for more than £10 billion worth of HS2 contracts.

Over 160 firms working in a range of sectors from across the country have signed up to attend today’s event hosted by HS2 Ltd, showing just how much enthusiasm there is in Scotland to be a part of the biggest infrastructure project to be built in Britain for decades.

And rightly so. Passengers living in Scotland will benefit from HS2 the moment services begin in 2026 with faster journeys and better connections. HS2 trains will run from Scotland to London on both existing and high speed lines, so passengers won’t need to change. Once HS2 is fully complete, this journey will take only 3 hours 38 minutes. This vital scheme will benefit the Scottish economy by an estimated £3billion once finished.

However the potential opportunities for Scotland will come much sooner than that. In just two years’ time, we will start building HS2 and we have now started the procurement process for billions of pounds worth of contracts for the first phase of HS2 between London and Birmingham.

It’s expected that as many as 60 per cent of these contract opportunities will go to small or medium sized businesses. And it is clear to me that Scotland’s engineering base is well placed to benefit from the construction phase of the project, which will deliver jobs throughout the supply chain.

Over the next decade, the successful bidders will build over 140 miles of bridges, tunnels, track and earthworks. So we need everything from architects to aggregates, and engineers to environmental consultants. HS2 will create up to 25,000 jobs during construction and 3000 jobs when in operation. And that’s at a time when we need thousands more people to work on other road and rail schemes.

So the UK government is transforming apprenticeships, with a commitment to train 3 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.

We 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 the UK government is sending with HS2 is that engineering qualifications will set youngsters up for an exciting career in a fast growing industry. Scotland has a proud tradition of producing great engineers – and with HS2, we want to attract a new generation who can continue that tradition.

So today I am urging Scotland to embrace HS2. This is a one-nation railway with benefits across the whole of the UK – benefits to passengers, businesses and thousands of people who will work on this momentous project.

Robert Goodwill is UK Transport Minister for HS2