HS2 go-ahead confirmed, machine tool firms braced for details

Posted on 10 Jan 2012

The first phase of High Speed Two, the new high speed rail line linking London to the North with 225mph trains, has today been given the go-ahead by government.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening has backed the first stage, 100-mile (160km) link from London to Birmingham. It would be built from 2014 to 2026 and is the first phase of High Speed Two (HS2). A second phase could potentially link London with Manchester, Leeds and eventually Scotland.

The new line is designed to transform travel between London and regions in the north and to relieve overcrowding on current services. However, local opposition along the route – especially in the Chilterns in Buckinghamshire – are proposing to block the line via legal action, potentially delaying the scheme.

At a cost of £17bn, phase one of HS2 would be the biggest national infrastructure project since the London Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012.

Subcontract manufacturers who manufacturer precision parts suitable for trains and rail infrastructure will be keenly anticipating the announcement.

Bob Hunt, managing director of StarGB, the UK and Ireland distributor for Star sliding head lathes, expect more orders once the HS2 project commences.

“We’re looking at that as one headline project that we would expect to convert to sales,” he told The Manufacturer. “It’s a huge infrastructure project and would require many components, such as electrical interconnectors, that Star machines make to the highest standard.”

StarGB had a bumper year in 2011, says Mr Hunt, with order spikes in November and, unusually, December.

“The MTA welcomes this long term infrastructure project, which will deliver benefits to all areas of the UK,” said Graham Dewhurst, CEO of the Manufacturing Technologies Association. “The project will enable the country to regain leverage in its transport engineering base.”

We hope that the Government will ensure that its procurement policies support the UK supply chain in benefiting fully from this,” he added.

The MTA says it intends to run seminars for its members and customers, focusing on how to make the most of the project which could total more than £32bn investment over 20-years.

With HS2 given the green light, further to the preferred bidder tender process held in 2009 for the IE trains, the contractor for building the HS2 trains could be Hitachi. The Japanese company said in 2011 it would build an assembly and maintenance facility for high speed trains in Consett, Durham, which are manufactured in Japan.

Philippa Oldham, head of transport at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), said: “The government must ensure that the £32bn that will be designated to HS2 is also an investment into UK jobs and skills. The country needs to invest in and nurture its engineering talent.”

“It is positive that plans include linking up not just London and Birmingham to the High Speed network but also Leeds and Manchester – all critically important hubs for UK trade and business.”