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New chairman says HS2 will keep engineers in the UK

The proposed High Speed Two (HS2) rail network will help keep engineering skills in the UK, according to the project’s new chairman.

Speaking at the unveiling of plans for England’s first new further education college in 20 years, Sir David Higgins said HS2 would provide a welcome boost to the UK skills base.

‘This country produces some of the best engineers to be found anywhere in the world,’ he said. ‘The problem is that there aren’t enough of them, and there isn’t a long enough guaranteed work-stream to keep them here. So they tend to go overseas.


‘HS2 provides us with a unique chance to address both issues. The sheer length of the project means we can offer people a rewarding career in engineering staying in this country, whilst the multiplicity of skills required means we will be equipping a new generation with experience at the cutting edge of technology.’

Higgins, who was formerly chief executive of both Network Rail and the London 2012 Olympic Delivery Authority, was brought in to find ways of cutting the spiralling estimated costs of HS2 and lead a publicity fightback to secure waning support for the project.

He is due to deliver a report in March on how costs might be lowered and delivery sped up.

The government said the proposed new college will provide the specialist training and qualifications needed to help ensure the skilled jobs created by HS2, thought to include up to 2,000 apprenticeships over the life of the project, go to British workers.

Skills and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock said in a statement: ‘HS2 will be a world-class project using cutting edge technology. It is vital we act now to ensure we have enough skilled people to build HS2 and make sure as many jobs as possible are local.

‘This new elite institution with a specific focus on rail construction and maintenance will give learners new skills which respond not only to the needs of HS2, but also to the future of rail engineering so is vital for Britain’s future.’

The government has not yet said where the college would be located or how much it would cost but said it was expected to open by 2017 when construction of HS2 is due to begin.

Commenting on the announcement, Keith Lewis, managing director of engineering recruitment company Matchtech said: ‘The creation of a further education college specialising in engineering sends a really strong message.

‘Our recent Confidence Index findings…found that over three quarters of UK engineers are doubtful that enough is being done by the government to attract new talent to the engineering industry.

‘Over half of all the engineers surveyed said they would either definitely or possibly be prepared to move overseas for work and nearly two thirds believe the UK will cease to be an engineering world leader in the future.

 ‘A big contributor to this sentiment is the perceived lack of investment in UK engineering skills and education, so it is fantastic to learn about the planned launch in 2017 to support the sector.’

Readers' comments (9)

  • This is more of the most ghastly disaster ever to befall UK infrastructure. First, Higgins and the 2012 team impose on us a useless, inflexible Olympic Stadium at Stratford.
    Now he wants to inflict a hugely expensive, elite-only, zero connectivity 'high speed' rail line on us. Only 1% of us will be able to afford the fare, plus the £10 connecting fare from its outlying stations to central Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, etc. China's high speed network is a £100bn indebted national disaster that very few of its citizens can afford. We are one-20th the size of China - and our short distances cannot justify any rail link of this kind.

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  • (Putting the headline story and the Poll together) why oh why are we spending all that money on HS2 when what we should be doing as Engineers in society, is ALL of the flood prevention schemes listed in the Poll and more.
    Investment in infrastructure should not be about growth, now that the damage is done, but about protection from the very climate change which has resulted from previous growth.

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  • Yes, it may keep some engineering talent within the UK, but so would any significant investment in engineering! From anything such as a new hub airport, to large tidal generation schemes, or a greater investment in new nuclear. It's hardly much of an individual selling point for HS2. They should continue pushing the "capacity of the network" angle, as that rings true the most to me.

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  • At least it's consistent. Selecting a "leader" of previous long running jokes to lead and sell another joke.

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  • The most successful Olympics for decades was a joke?

  • I can think of many other, more beneficial projects our engineers can be doing. Also.. how can we guarantee the contract(s) wont go to spain ...or south korea? This smacks of focus group politics .. shallow, unimaginative, self serving. I wonder if its the same lot that built HS1 and are doing crossrail ...who are thinking of 'the next job' .. connect Leeds Manchester ..glasgow first ..

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  • What a total waste of money this HS2 is. Can someone please explain why an island the size of which we are needs anything of this nature? What is the point of saving 20 minutes travelling to London? There are bound to be leaves etc on the line to slow it down. I agree totally with Fat man on a bicycle, a total joke and we will be paying for it for years to come.

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  • Editor- you can prove each Olympics was the most successful ever, even Montreal which bankrupted the city for years after (of course we were already bankrupt thanks to Labour, but there we are). From outside of London, the Olympics was clearly almost wholly London-centric, and like the Millenium Dumb, merely a way of filching billions from the rest of the country to upgrade London's internal infrastructure.

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  • He is hardly likely to encourage Engineers to move abroad is he.
    As I see it, apart from HS2 being the biggest white elephant the UK has seen in a while it will employ highly qualified Engineers mainly in the design phases. After that it will be PM's and QS's who drive the project.

    Money much better spent developing Thorium Reactor powered Electrical generation before we are held to ransom for Power or the lights start going out.

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  • this will attract engineers etc from far away .. spain, italy, romania, bulgaria ... so i doubt if 'the natives' who have to pay for houses, taxes etc will get a look in (being too expensive) .... a sure way of keepin the costs down

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  • Don't foreign-born workers pay taxes, rent, mortgages etc?

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