The chairman of HS2 has said that the project is already changing the way private investors, as well as local and central government plan for the future in Britain.

But David Higgins said HS2 must also help change the way we deliver infrastructure in this country as soon as we can reap the benefits for future projects such as Hinckley Point.

Mr Higgins made his comments in a speech in Manchester marking the second anniversary of the launch of his first report in the city.

In that two years, he said, not only had the concept of re-balancing the British economy taken root, people were beginning the process of making it a reality, helped by the moves towards devolution.

Local authorities and enterprise partnerships not just in Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds, but also in the North West, the East and West Midlands, and Yorkshire were using HS2 not just to re-think their transport systems, but also how they attract private investment to their areas – and business has responded.

They were taking responsibility for transforming both their local economies and the overall balance of the national economy.

Companies such as Burberry in Leeds, HSBC in Birmingham, Interserve in Solihull are beginning to recognise the benefits of the extra connectivity and capacity that HS2 will deliver – as are potential investors elsewhere.

The potential for that transformation is outlined in a report published by HS2 today – HS2: Changing Britain.

The report also outlines how HS2 is already changing the perceptions and ambitions of the next generation quoting Cheshire East councillor, Rachel Bailey, as saying that it is already having a tangible effect in Crewe:

“That difference is being felt in schools because it is helping to lift pupils’ horizons, particularly on skills.”

But Sir David also challenged the UK infrastructure industry to learn the lessons of construction elsewhere and become more streamlined in its approach.

A series of factors, he said, made the UK industry less cost effective: a history of stop/go which prevented firms investing in skills, innovation and technology; fragmentation leading to multiple overhead costs plus a lack of co-ordination between design and construction.

HS2, he said, was determined to adopt a new approach which would bear down on those factors and transform the way we deliver infrastructure in this country, without compromising HS2’s strategic objective to re-balance the British economy.

That approach would include:

  • early contractor involvement to drive innovation and efficiencies in design and methodology
  • adopting enabling works contracts to clear the line of route ahead of the main civils works
  • incentivising companies to out-perform
  • adopting techniques new to this country such as linear construction, which uses the newly constructed route as a supply chain access

“As a twenty year project we have no excuse not to become more streamlined in our approach and not to innovate.”

Sir David said the lessons learnt from applying this approach to Phase One would be then be transferred to Phase Two.

You can view the report here.
You can read the speech here.