Out-Law News 2 min. read

First new college in 20 years will train "next generation" of engineers for HS2, says Government

The first new further education (FE) college in England for 20 years is due to open in 2017, in time to support the "next generation" of "world-class" engineers for major projects such as High Speed 2 (HS2), the Government has announced.

The college will deliver the specialised training and qualifications needed for work on high speed rail projects, including training in rail engineering, environmental skills and construction. The announcement forms part of the Government's work on skills and apprenticeships with HS2 Ltd, and accompanies the work of the independent HS2 Growth Taskforce on maximising the regional benefits of the new railway.

"Creating jobs by delivering better infrastructure is a key part of the Government's long term economic plan," said Transport Secretary Patrick McLouglin. "HS2 will not only help businesses expand, creating employment; it will also give young people opportunities to get new skills, get a job and a career, become more secure and get on in life. When open, it is predicted that HS2 will underpin the delivery of 400,000 jobs."

Construction of the high speed intercity line is expected to create 2,000 apprenticeships over the lifetime of the project. No location or funding arrangements have been specified for the new college yet, but the Government said that "learners from across the country" would be given opportunities to become involved and work along the line.

The announcement was made during a visit to Old Oak Common railway depot by Government ministers for transport, skills and enterprise. They were joined by Sir David Higgins, the new chairman of HS2 Ltd; who said that HS2 and the new college would help to address the twin problems of the UK's lack of engineers, and lack of employment opportunities.

"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. So HS2 gives us the change not just to re-balance the economic geography of the country, but also our national skills base," he said.

Speaking to the Radio 4 Today programme earlier in the day, Higgins confirmed that he would report on whether it was possible to deliver the £42.6 billion project more quickly and a lower cost "by mid-early March". The Government asked Higgins, who was previously chief executive of Network Rail and former head of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) to consider the potential for better planning of the project and early engagement with industry towards the end of last year.

"The first thing I want to look at is the overall deliverability time – can we make it quicker; can we get the benefits to the North earlier; and then how can we deliver it most effectively; and hopefully that will deliver cost savings," he said.

HS2 is planned to be built in two stages, with completion of the initial London to Birmingham section of the line currently scheduled for 2026. A proposed second phase of the project envisages the construction of an onward 'y network' connecting the line to Manchester and Leeds, as well as to Heathrow Airport, by 2033. The project is currently expected to cost £42.6bn, of which just over £14bn is contingency money; with an additional £7.5bn for rolling stock, according to the latest estimates.

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