Is HS3 everything it’s cracked up to be? Thornton and Lowe’s Lee Wagstaff discovers
The construction and engineering industries are set to benefit greatly from the development of HS3, a new high-speed rail link connecting Northern cities.
The HS3 line, which is part of the government’s long-term economic plan for the North, will cut travel time nearly in half, allowing commuters to travel between Leeds and Manchester in around 26 minutes, down from the current time of around 55 minutes. The accelerated transportation link has the potential to create a plethora of opportunities throughout the region, with the goal of positioning the North as a powerhouse that will significantly boost the overall UK economy.
Patrick Mcloughlin, Transport Secretary, said last year, shortly after the government officially backed the HS3 plans, “Our Northern cities are on the verge of an economic transformation, and today’s report underlines how we can secure this by bringing those cities together to maximise the benefits of good transport links.”
“On the back of new transport infrastructure, science investment, and civic leadership, we are well on our way to turning the Northern Powerhouse into reality,” said Chancellor George Osborne.
Of course, the plans are still in their early stages, and the contentious HS2 project, which will connect the North and South, has yet to begin. So, how will high-speed rail benefit the UK economy as a whole?
Northern cities have established a reputation as industry leaders in digital and technological expertise in recent years.
TechNorth, a major Northern Futures project launched last year, was established to coordinate the existing digital and tech capabilities of the tech economies of Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, and the North East (Newcastle, Sunderland, and the Tees Valley). TechNorth aims to shine a light on these cities, but it requires the support of large inward investors.
Large inward investments could have a significant impact on many of the North’s smaller businesses, creating thousands of new job opportunities. The establishment of new businesses will increase demand for larger construction projects, such as new buildings and offices. The addition of MediaCityUK in Salford created enormous growth opportunities for Manchester, and the TechNorth initiative hopes to inspire a similar influx of new opportunities throughout the Northern regions.
Businesses will thrive as a result of the additional support from inward investors, creating more opportunities for growth. New growth and a growing population in certain areas will drive demand for more housing as well as an increase in service-oriented spaces such as bars and restaurants.
To meet the changing circumstances, the construction industry will boom; for the first time in years, there will not only be a demand for new projects to begin, but the HS3 rail link will make it easier for companies to recruit employees for new jobs, filling the gaps that ongoing skills shortages are creating.
Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, stated, “As I stated when I launched the National Infrastructure Plan, excellent infrastructure is critical if we are to build a stronger economy and a fairer society.” And delivering world-class infrastructure necessitates that we, as a nation, “think big.”
Innovative and exciting construction projects will encourage more outsiders from other areas to come to the North and spread their wealth.
According to a report published by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, the labour market is becoming increasingly competitive as the shortage of skilled workers grows. Employers are already having to raise their pay packages in order to attract candidates with engineering, construction, and technology backgrounds.
However, candidates aren’t just looking for a higher salary; because of the labour shortage, workers can afford to be picky about certain aspects of their jobs, such as those in desirable locations, with better hours, and easier commutes.
Skilled workers from across the country were previously hesitant to consider jobs in the North due to the longer commute, but the HS3 rail link could truly bridge the gap between further parts of the country.
Many construction companies dream of a lucrative new project funded by inward investors. As current plans for the HS3 are set to begin over the next decade, construction firms hoping for a piece of the pie will need to tender their bids quickly in order to be in with a chance of securing such a valuable contract.