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Ray O'Rourke: 'Britain must be bold and ambitious' on HS2

“Britain’s top builder” Ray O’Rourke has been appointed to the government’s HS2 Growth Taskforce, which has been set up to maximise the benefits of the high-speed rail project.

The highly respected chairman of Laing O’Rourke joins the taskforce, led by commercial secretary to the Treasury by Lord Deighton, just over a week after former chancellor Alistair Darling criticised the business case for HS2 and raised questions over the scheme’s long-term benefits.

“HS2 has the power to transform this country”

Ray O’Rourke, Laing O’Rourke

Mr O’Rourke, whose 35 years at the top of the industry was recognised at this year’s Construction News Awards with a place on the Roll of Honour, will work with the rest of the taskforce to identify skills gaps and possible bottlenecks in the supply chain.

In particular, the Department for Transport said the taskforce would learn from the success of Crossrail.

Chancellor George Osborne told Construction News earlier this year he wanted to put an end to “feast to famine” infrastructure investment so that skills and workloads can be seamlessly transferred from one major project to another.

A statement from the DfT said: “Lord Deighton has now gathered a group with some serious clout and Ray and the taskforce will be working hard to ensure the UK can squeeze every last drop from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“The taskforce will be doing all it can to help British businesses, including smaller firms, get a slice of the action”

Ray O’Rourke, Laing O’Rourke

Referring to HS2 as “Britain’s first bullet train”, the department said it would create nearly 20,000 construction jobs, with 70 per cent of these created outside London.

Mr O’Rourke said: “In order to be the best Britain has to be bold and ambitious. We can’t continue to make do and mend.

“HS2 has the power to transform this country and its creaking transport network; in fact, it can’t come soon enough.”

Mr O’Rourke added: “Transformation is never cheap, but the more money we can send straight back into the British economy, the better. For its part, the taskforce will be doing all it can to help British businesses, including smaller firms, get a slice of the action.

“Big projects can bring big rewards and with HS2 set to become the biggest construction project in Europe, the rewards should follow.”

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