A slowdown on high speed

News editor

Environmental and skills concerns add to the doubts over the future of the High Speed 2 project

HS2 finds itself in the spotlight once more with MPs casting doubts over its environmental credentials and a trade body warning that there won’t be enough engineers to build it.

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) believes the consultation process on HS2 has not ‘fully addressed the many environmental concerns’, whilst APSCo today addresses on going concerns about skills shortages and the loss of British engineers to overseas projects.

In its report published today EAC states, ‘parliament, in its capacity as the planning authority for HS2, should ensure that everything possible is done to minimise damage to ancient woodlands and sites of special scientific interest (SSSI), and that where loss is genuinely unavoidable, that compensation is applied to the fullest extent possible.’

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The committee notes that surveys have yet to be conducted on 40 per cent of the land that HS2 will be built on, a situation that the should be rectified as quickly as possible in order to identify any protected species not included in HS2 Ltd’s current Environmental Statement.

‘The government needs to show real commitment to dealing with the impact that HS2 will have on our countryside and wildlife,’ Joan Walley MP, committee chair said in a statement. ‘Ancient woodlands and other hard to replace sites of natural value should not be subordinated to crude economic calculations of cost and benefit.’

EAC notes also that HS2 may need to run at slower speeds in order to help with compliance to the Climate Change Act, stating: ‘While the impact of lower maximum train speed on reducing emissions is currently not seen as substantial, the legally binding commitment to reduce emissions makes even a small reduction desirable.

‘HS2 Ltd and the Department [of Transport] should therefore examine the scope for requiring a reduced maximum speed for the trains until electricity generation has been sufficiently decarbonised to make that a marginal issue, and publish the calculations that would underpin such a calculation.’

The HS2 Hybrid Bill will be given its second reading on 28 April.

APSCo reports a rise in permanent (33 per cent) and contract engineering vacancies (22 per cent) over the past year, warning that future infrastructure projects will struggle if government and business leaders fail to acknowledge the demand for skilled British engineers on overseas projects.

Matchtech’s recent Confidence Index revealed that over half of respondents would seriously contemplate working overseas, with a further two-thirds thinking that Britain will ‘cease to be an engineering world leader in the future’.

‘The investment the government is pumping into our infrastructure network can only be positive news for the UK, but only if this is backed up with the necessary manpower to enable projects to happen,’ Ann Swain, chief executive, APSCo said. ‘As it currently stands major initiatives which, in the long run, will create hundreds if not thousands of jobs, risk being halted or even axed unless action is taken imminently.  We are already facing a brain drain from the UK engineering sector.’

MACH 2014 opens its doors today at the NEC in Birmingham and a quick visit to the event’s website sees the Machine Tool Association continuing its efforts to encourage people into a career in manufacturing.

The Student Zone has been designed for prospective candidates, teachers and trainers who’ve been – or are considering a visit – to MACH and are keen to further their interest in manufacturing. Broken up into eight sections, the Student Zone includes an overview of various processes – including milling, metal forming and robotics – a section in the importance of numeracy and how it’s used to manufacture products, plus case studies from apprentices.

The list of exhibitors is too numerous to mention here, but Bruderer UK have been in touch with news of a ‘world first’ being revealed at the show, plus the announcement of two strategic partnerships. For the first time, the Luton-based company will showcase its Bruderer BSTA 280-75 stamping press, which has already been supplied to Harwin in deal worth £500,000.