Members of the HS2 Growth Taskforce have pleaded for the government to appoint a minister responsible for the high speed line, its chair Lord Deighton has told Construction News.
Speaking at the HS2 Growth Taskforce report launch today [see attached, right] the commercial secretary to the Treasury added that the recommendation from the taskforce to appoint an HS2 minister would create a role in government to focus on the project.
He said: “The minister [recommendation] was very much reflecting a plea from those of my taskforce members, particularly those who operate outside London, to have a voice in the middle of government that would really focus in on the growth aspects [of HS2] in terms of delivering the rail line itself.”
Lord Deighton emphasised that the broader benefits of HS2, including regeneration and job growth, would require coordinated input from central departments including work and pensions, communities and local government, education, treasury and business, skills and innovation.
He said: “We [need to pull] those [departments] together to deliver for the regions the support they need to make this happen… we want government to tell us how they are going to solve that challenge for us.”
The taskforce, chaired by Lord Deighton, was created in summer 2013 to advise the government on how to maximise return from the investment in HS2.
The group made recommendations within four areas of focus that it feels could increase benefits of the project if addressed.
Recommendations included appointing a minister with responsibility for HS2-related growth and regeneration creation.
The taskforce has also recommended the delivery of HS2 Growth Strategies around each of the HS2 stations by the end of 2014, to demonstrate how the £42bn link will provide jobs, growth and regeneration to cities.
Lord Deighton said the government needed to produce an ambitious and detailed plan for the delivery of HS2.
“The challenge I’ve put to [the government] is I really want them to surprise me with the ambition of how they grasp the issues we’ve raised and how they plan to deal with it.”
He stressed that the government must take note of the themes raised at today’s launch, including the skills challenge and integrating the UK’s rail network.
He added: “I want to really see well thought-through, ambitious, implementable specific plans which show [HS2] is actually going to happen.”
Taskforce report highlights
HS2 Growth Strategies
- Each HS2 station needs a HS2 Growth Strategy by 2014 to demonstrate how HS2 will provide jobs, growth and regeneration to cities.
- Local authorities must create an administrative body by the end of 2014 to deliver these strategies and the government must support them in bringing forward regeneration.
- Government should partner with local authorities in the development and delivery of the Growth Strategies.
- The government should appoint a minister with responsibility for HS2-related economic growth and regeneration.
- The government and Network Rail should deliver a plan by the end of 2014 on how HS2 will affect the rail services off the HS2 route and for rail freight as well as their plans for a wider review of rail services.
- The government must make railway engineering and advanced construction skills a national priority and deliver a plan of how the HS2 Skills College will contribute to this by the end of 2014.
- The government, HS2 and industry should develop an HS2 outreach programme by mid-2015, formally linked to theeducation system.
- HS2 should integrate high apprenticeship, job creation and skills development into its designed procurement process and set out its approach by autumn 2014.
- HS2 should set new standards for industry engagement and open procurement.
- HS2 procurement strategy should require main contractors to use open procurement tools to advertise HS2 opportunities and the process should be streamlined where possible to minimise barriers for entry for small businesses.