Hundreds of regional firms win work on HS2 project

More than 400 firms across the West Midlands have won contracts in HS2’s supply chain, just in the first phase of the new high-speed rail network’s evolution.

Roughly 50% of the companies whose tenders were successful are SMEs, according to Mark Thurston, the CEO of Birmingham-based HS2 Ltd.

The good news came at a rail infrastructure event organised by the Institute of Directors’ (IoD) West Midlands branch at Solihull College.

Regional IoD director Calum Nisbet said the session was designed to demonstrate the scale of supply chain work already awarded for HS2, and underline the array of long-term opportunities.

“There’s a potential danger that firms, especially SMEs, think of the high-speed rail network as something which will happen in the future, so we wanted to remind everyone that in commercial terms, it is very much of the moment,” he said.

“We’re eager to work with members, and other regional companies, to help them understand what is available and how they can engage effectively with HS2’s procurement programme.”

Thurston admitted the venue was particularly appropriate, as he began his career as an apprentice at technical college some 30 years ago.

“One of the aspects which appeals to me is to think that, as construction gets underway this year, the driver of the first HS2 train into Leeds in 2033 will probably be doing their exams today at college,” he said.

“As we know, UK productivity lags behind our international rivals, and in the West Midlands, productivity lags around 15% behind the national average. The main factor is transport connectivity, which makes it difficult for the region’s urban centres to come together to work more efficiently,” Thurston told his audience.

“HS2 will offer businesses opportunities to relocate and expand their operations into this region, where prices and housing costs are much more competitive than the South-East. It will also increase career opportunities by allowing people to live here, but to work in Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, York or London.

“So far, we’ve awarded about £8 billion of work, but there will be thousands of opportunities within the supply chain in the next four to five years. Our initial packages to Tier One suppliers are around £2.5 billion each, but – like the London Olympics – there are also huge opportunities further down the supply chain.”

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