Much has been made of the impact that HS2 will have on the UK since the government first gave the project the green light in January 2012, with everything from the effect on homeowners to the impact on businesses being debated, not to mention the opportunities for the construction sector.

The route is scheduled to link London with Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester and the East Midlands, with the first phase of work being carried out in 2017 and overall construction taking 16 years.

Understandably, there will be a major knock-on effect as existing routes are upgraded and altered, old buildings are knocked down to make room for new ones, and new roles are created to help facilitate the construction of new lines.

New opportunities
For the construction industry, there will be several opportunities that businesses can take advantage of, creating long-term and potentially lucrative sources of income.

With more than £10 billion of contracts being awarded for the first phase between London and the West Midlands alone, the project clearly represents a huge undertaking, but HS2 chief executive Simon Kirby says the opportunities for the rail, construction and associated industries is almost limitless.

He added: “To build HS2 between the West Midlands and London is a huge undertaking: there are £10 billion worth of contracts and at peak construction we’ll be employing around 40,000 people to deliver the first part of this strategically important piece of infrastructure that is an investment in the country’s future stretching decades ahead.”

Strength in numbers
The sheer number of staff required to realise the project’s ambitions will create extensive opportunities for companies to hire and upskill staff to help cope with demand, and for suppliers it will offer the chance to exploit an important gap in the market – one that will continue with the creation of HS3.

Mr Kirby said the HS2 construction supply chain will be crucial to ensuring UK industry, people and businesses are well placed to take advantage of the “tremendous opportunity” it represents.

This will require all facets of the industry to work in sync to ensure seamless delivery, and it is therefore imperative that the sector collectively makes the best possible use of skills and workers in building the high speed network and “squeezing every possible benefit” from HS2.

One major opportunity for the construction industry that comes from HS2 will be the creation of new rail depots and stations to support the expansion. This will require a targeted approach to minimise potential disruption to surrounding areas – a key concern of HS2 objectors – but will also mean that there are major opportunities for contracts to help build and maintain these essential structures.

These opportunities will chiefly involve upgrading existing facilities to help manage the expected footfall created by the new rail routes, and to fulfil proposals to house the trains at depots each night, which will include both new and existing facilities such as Edge Hill in Liverpool, Longsight in Manchester, and Polmadie in Glasgow.

While the new depots will not be created until Phase Two of the project, forward planning will be crucial to help minimise disruption and ensure both a smooth process and disruption-free supply chain.

Breaking ground
The national significance of HS2 is reflected in the geographical spread of manufactures, suppliers and specifiers involved in the project, with participants hailing from locations as far apart as Dundee and Devon.

At the same time, it will be important to ensure that those who have doubts about the project are given the assurances that the long-term viability of HS2 remains intact; the only way to show this will be through a seamless transition from planning to reality.

As first ground is broken on the project in 2017, it will be more important than ever for all involved to work together to properly harness the opportunity that the new network presents, and the next steps will be ensuring plans are in place to hit the ground running.

By Liam O’Hara, marketing director at SIG Building Solutions