HS2 and exacerbation of labour shortages
According to an Albion Economics (Leo Eyles) report for the ‘High Speed Rail Industry Leaders Group’, HS2 would require “up to” 27,000 staff in the period up to 2020, in general construction and specialist rail trades.
However, it has been widely reported that there are severe labour shortages, in both UK general construction and rail civil engineering.
In December 2014, the BBC reported fears that “the UK’s chronic skills shortage” was hampering productivity and holding back the economic recovery”.
The shortage was particularly acute in (general) construction.
[Skills shortages holding back the UK’s economic recovery,, BBC, 1 Dec 2014]
[…] The shortage is particularly acute in construction, encompassing as it does a wide range of disciplines from structural engineering to architecture, bricklaying to surveying.
[…] House building targets are unlikely to be met as a result.
“About 400,000 people left the industry since 2008,” says Richard Steer, chairman of Gleeds, a leading construction management company responsible for a wide range of projects, from nuclear power stations to luxury apartments.
Skills shortages in key areas pose “serious risks to Network Rail delivering its plans”, the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts noted in November 2015.
[Network Rail’s 2014–2019 investment programme, PAC]
[…] The scale and volume of [Network Rail] work planned requires a strong supply chain with enough capacity and skills, particularly in electrification where there is a shortage of skilled workers.
If Mr Eyles’ figures are accurate, pulling back on HS2 could increase the supply of labour for housing and Network Rail upgrades, by up to 27,000 in the period to 2020.