HS2 Greenlight – good news for construction

HS2 train Ellis Fox Blog

For a high speed rail project HS2 has been extremely slow getting off the ground. It has been dogged by controversy, local council opposition, environmentalist opposition, and cost estimates that keep rising. Yet despite all of this PM Boris Johnson has given the project the green light, adding that construction must commence as soon as April 2020.

For many in the construction industry, there’s a sense of relief that the project will finally get underway. Not only is it a high profile project that many aspire to be involved in, but it’s also the project many are hoping will help pull the construction and infrastructure sectors out of its two year slump.  But the big question is: Will HS2 live up to its promises?

In the wake of Brexit, Johnson is claiming that HS2 will be part of Britain’s ‘transport revolution’ that connects the north and south, generates thousands of jobs and provides a much needed boost to local economies. Perhaps to placate the environmentalists, this ‘transport revolution’ is also set to include thousands of electric busses and hundreds of miles of cycling routes, creating an extensive network of low carbon infrastructure.

The PM has gone as far as to appoint a minister to oversee HS2 and has vowed to reign in escalating costs and project mismanagement. What this will actually look like as the project gets underway is anyone’s guess.  But what we do know is that despite all the controversy, HS2 does hold good promise of boosting growth in the construction industry.

Because it is such high profile project, main contractors will be putting their best people on the front line. The direct benefit of this is not only the high level of expertise being made available for HS2, but as those engineers, project managers and commercial directors focus their efforts on HS2, it’s creating openings for others to move up in their career by being involved in other major, but low profile projects.

Additionally, because it’s unlikely all opposition will stop just because the green light has been given, there is an opportunity to cultivate a culture of innovative thinking to come up with solutions to the concerns being raised by various parties. But instead of reinventing the wheel the construction industry would do well to look at how other high speed rail projects have been implemented around the globe and take a page from those construction project experiences.