High Speed Rail Industry Leaders is calling for a new body that promotes and sells our high speed expertise and knowledge internationally…
The government’s investment in HS2 is the most significant large-scale infrastructure project in the UK, and three months ago the project received Royal Assent – the powers to build the first stage from London to Birmingham and beyond. Just last month, prime minister Theresa May committed to delivering the high-speed rail link, recognising its importance and the value it can bring.
But HS2 is about more than just engineering. With HS2, we have the chance to utilise the latest technology to make each journey as smooth and hassle free for everyone. We can look at innovative technologies to help change perceptions of rail travel and provide a whole new passenger experience.
Industry and government surely need to work together so that the UK makes the most of the vast opportunities HS2 creates. It can be used it to generate a gold standard export product for the UK, selling our expertise to build and to develop high speed lines and transform services around the world. The simplest way to safeguard this once-in-a-generation opportunity is to create a formal body that promotes the project’s expertise internationally.
This is exactly what we at High Speed Rail Industry Leaders (HSRIL) have recommended in our response to the government’s Green Paper Building Our Industrial Strategy. HSRIL is made up of industry experts committed to supporting the successful delivery of a world-class high speed rail network in Britain, and we have called for the creation of ‘HS2 International’ to sell our expertise and knowledge across the globe. We know that other countries spot a successful project and want to replicate its winning features. We should not wait until the project nears completion before getting our export drive into gear.
With membership and experience across the rail and technology sectors, HSRIL is ideally placed to help coordinate efforts to develop the HS2 International concept and to promote the export of our expertise for the benefit of the UK. HS2 International would bring together companies committed to supporting the delivery of high speed rail alongside client body HS2 Ltd to create a public-private partnership. This would be the ideal vehicle to market the UK’s vast and growing skills base abroad.
The investment which HS2 delivers offers the opportunity to create a high value growth sector in the global growth area of high speed rail. We believe companies based in the UK are already well-placed to support this. As we leave the European Union, having such expertise at our disposal will be vital to help achieve the aims of a ‘global’ Britain.
Companies in the supply chain right across the UK are taking part in the development of HS2, innovating and skilling up a new generation of engineers and other specialists, supporting local economies across the nation in the process.
Sharing this experience will be vital, and not only for other rail projects across the country. As we leave the European Union, we will have the skills base to help support the industry in the run up to and beyond Brexit, leading the way through a gold-standard export opportunity, ensuring that this national investment works not once, but twice or more, for the benefit of the national economy.
It is vital that UK suppliers continue to contribute to the development of European and international standards, ensuring that UK manufactured products do not require extensive re-work and testing for export. For example, EU work on interoperability around trackside and in-cab technology solutions has made exporting common products, technologies and skills into Europe significantly easier and enabled UK total rail systems providers to compete in this arena.
By expanding onto an international footing, HSRIL is ready, through HS2 International, to help shape a dynamic export economy as we exit the EU.
Jim Steer is director of High Speed Rail Industry Leaders