Six companies have unveiled bids for HS2, each one focussing on how their bid would benefit the UK’s supply chain…

In an article in the March issue (Rail Professional 250), Chairman of William Cook Holdings, Sir Andrew Cook, pointed to the lack of a contractual requirement from the Department for Transport that HS2 ‘have the Union Jack on it’. He was referring to the importance of taking the money and contracts involved in HS2 and injecting that into the domestic supply chain.

Many of the stories we have published regarding the impact of HS2 have focussed on the peripheral benefits such as the lasting skills legacy from apprentices to archaeological digs at major sites along the route, but what about the direct supply chain?

A week or so before we went to press on this issue of the magazine, Alstom, Siemens, CAF, Talgo and Bombardier and Hitachi made their bids for HS2. The contract, worth £2.75 billion, is to design, build and maintain at least 54 trains for Phase One of HS2.

The reinforcing bar for the concrete will be imported, as there is no re-bar plant left in Britain and the construction equipment will also be mostly imported. With one exception, Britain does not make heavy off-highway vehicles. So, how to combat imports with local production? Out of all the bidding companies, Bombardier has an assembly shop in Derby, and Hitachi and Alstom have factories in various stages of completion.

Hitachi and Bombardier have taken that bold step of putting the Union Jack on their joint bid with their submission of a ‘Great British’ train proposal to HS2 Ltd that they said would be the most advanced, customer-oriented train ever to run in the UK.

Bombardier and Hitachi’s combined UK operations currently employ around 7,000 people that includes train factories in Derby, Newton Aycliffe and Crewe, extensive regional supply chains, together with a network of maintenance facilities across England, Scotland and Wales. Hitachi claims the proposal with Bombardier would be the best choice for UK supply chains. In the UK, Hitachi maintains the country’s only domestic high-speed fleet, the Class 395 Javelins, which it built and introduced ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The trains have run from Ashford to London St Pancras at a top speed of 140 mph for almost a decade.

Hitachi Rail’s Managing Director Karen Boswell OBE said: ‘Hitachi-Bombardier’s Great British train for HS2 would be a shining example of British ingenuity. Our bid, if successful, would bring significant benefits for economies and communities, while truly transforming connectivity and passengers’ experience.’

Upon announcing their intention to work together last year, Karen Boswell, Managing Director at Hitachi Rail, said their bid ‘drew on a huge wealth of UK experience and the best in modern technology – including our pioneering ‘bullet train’ experience. Our aim is to deliver a new British icon that will be recognised around the world – a Spitfire for the British railway.’

Alstom’s track record in the UK dates back to the dawn of the railway with its involvement in some of the most significant and innovative rail projects in British history such as building the UK Pendolinos, original Eurostar and infrastructure and railway systems on HS1. Alstom was also the first manufacturer to create a partnership with the National College for High Speed Rail to deliver training on a UK site. The company is also a key investor in UK rail expertise with its new Transport Technology Centre in Widnes.

‘Alstom’s vision is to make HS2 trains a timeless design classic’ according to Nick Crossfield, Managing Director for Alstom in UK and Ireland.

Our third bid comes from Siemens Mobility. Siemens currently supports over 56,000 UK jobs through its UK supply chain. Since the start of 2016 Siemens has spent almost £1.4 billion in the UK of which around £300 million was rail-related expenditure. In the UK, Siemens Mobility maintains the largest installed base of Siemens rolling stock in the world, with its 500+ trains clocking up over 65 million miles every year.

William Wilson, CEO of Siemens Mobility Limited, said: ‘The submission of our tender to build and maintain trains for HS2 is a huge milestone for our business. Our team has worked tirelessly to develop an offer that transforms how passengers experience high speed trains and set the standard for other global high-speed rail systems to follow. I am confident Siemens’ bid will offer HS2 the best combination of value to passengers, taxpayers and the UK economy.

‘HS2 has the potential to truly transform connectivity between urban centres and drive significant economic growth and productivity in the UK. We are proud to play a part in helping the UK to develop a world-class high-speed network, and believe our legacy in the UK rail market, technical knowledge and unrivalled global high-speed experience makes us an ideal partner for rolling stock.’

New investment 

Another company that has made commitments to directly involving itself in the UK supply chain is Talgo. In a move to encourage the UK supply-chain, the President of the Spanish very high-speed train engineering company confirmed that plans for a factory site which could employ up to one thousand people and other UK activity are making progress. Talgo says that it aims to enter the UK train market through ‘true manufacturing’. Instead of assembling kits of parts from overseas, the company wants to source as many components as possible from within the United Kingdom. In November last year, Talgo announced proposals to create a £9 million innovation and training facility at Barrow Hill Engine Shed.

Last year, after a search that lasted 18 months, Talgo selected two UK locations:

Chesterfield in England will form an ‘innovation hub’ for Research and Development – Longannet in Fife, Scotland will be the primary manufacturing location.

Talgo has said there could be a small ‘pre-production’ build whilst UK capacity is ramped up (and whilst UK employees are provided with the skills to build domestically), but the intention is to build British trains in Britain – not assemble parts largely from elsewhere.

Talgo has two existing facilities in Spain and is in need of a third site. The company has said that the decision to build a facility in the UK is not dependent on the HS2 contract. There will, however, need to be an ‘anchor’ order of some sort which will herald a ‘start to build’ order at the site – allowing Talgo to begin advertising for those jobs.

Jon Veitch from Talgo UK said: ‘We see many opportunities across the UK rail market, with its increasingly challenging demand for more capacity and a passenger-focused offering. HS2 will be crucial as the UK economy grows. Talgo is proud to be associated with the project.’

One thousand jobs are expected to come as a result of the Longannet site which Talgo have said will cover 40,000m2, and there is a potential for 6,000 more jobs in the local area as an indirect result of production at the site. Work is already underway to identify relevant supply chain companies within Fife which could serve the new facility. It is intended to be operational, subject to necessary statutory consents, by 2023.

The final bid comes from CAF, its bid to supply rolling stock for HS2 proposes the high-speed Oaris platform to meet the exacting requirements of the £2.75 billion contract.

In September 2018 CAF opened its multi-million pound manufacturing facility in Newport, South Wales, providing job opportunities for more than 300 skilled technicians, engineers, management, support staff, and apprentices. The factory is boosting the wider UK rail industry supply chain as CAF continues to develop a ‘cluster’ of local and national companies to supply components for its trains.


The former Transport Secretary Sir Patrick McLoughlin MP has told all leadership candidates for the Conservative Party that, if they want to be Prime Minister, they must back HS2. Sir Patrick made the remarks while on a site visit to key rail suppliers in Derby, as part of UK trade body the Railway Industry Association’s (RIA) Rail Fellowship Programme, with the visit organised in partnership with Midlands rail trade body, Rail Forum Midlands (RFM).

Sir Patrick visited the rail manufacturer Bombardier as part of his visit where he received a tour of the production lines on site. He stated: ‘Our rail industry is of vital importance to the UK economy and as demand grows, the Government must ensure its ambition continues to grow with it.

‘HS2 is a prime example of rail being put at the heart of our economic strategy. As Transport Secretary I was proud to back HS2, and every candidate running to be the next Prime Minister should back it as well. This is a crucial project which is delivering jobs, connectivity, and enhanced capacity for the rail network. Frankly I think it would be mad to consider scrapping it.

‘The RIA Rail Fellowship programme is all about showing support for this great British rail industry, and HS2 is perhaps the most vital project for us all to vocally support.’

So, which bid will be best for HS2 itself and which bid will actually benefit the UK supply chain the most?