Crowe event highlights £1 billion in HS2 opportunities for West Midlands businesses
West Midlands businesses have been urged to seize the opportunity of £1 billion of HS2 contracts that are coming up for grabs this year, at a round table event hosted by national audit, tax, advisory and risk firm Crowe.
At the same time Johnathan Dudley, Crowe’s Midlands and South West Managing Partner and National Head of Manufacturing, urged the HS2 partnership to use the railway scheme as a platform to revive the UK’s traditional railway engineering industry.
Representatives from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), HS2 construction partner Balfour Beatty Vinci and Birmingham Chamber met with a select group of business leaders at Crowe’s offices at Black Country House in Oldbury.
They outlined the opportunities the rail project offered business, with £1.7 billion in contracts already awarded to West Midlands companies, with another £1 billion of civil engineering contracts due to be awarded by the end of this year.
Businesses were urged to use the HS2 Supply Chain School and online platforms such as CompeteFor to find out how they could win work on the high speed rail scheme.
But Craig Wakeman, Head of Transport Implementation at the Combined Authority, and Matt Munn, Head of Supply Chain Management at Balfour Beatty Vinci, said they were also there to listen.
They encouraged companies to talk about the challenges and issues they had faced trying to secure HS2 contracts, leading to a lively discussion.
Steve Morley, President of the West Bromwich-based Confederation of British Metalforming, said an initial attempt to engage with HS2 by his 200-strong membership two years ago had been “a nightmare”.
Craig Wakeman said this highlighted a “timing issue” – many manufacturers wanted work on the railtrack system and rolling stock contracts, and HS2 plans to issue an update when more information becomes available.
The HS2 team said they would now press for the release of a Gantt chart, which would detail the project’s schedule of procurement from construction through to track and train delivery, giving companies a better idea of when to bid for contracts.
Matt Munn also said the meeting had raised issues over effective communication surrounding information on “meet the buyer” and other HS2 events.
Geoff Archenhold, CEO of Lichfield-based Integrated System Technologies, urged the HS2 design team to engage with small and medium-sized companies at an early stage, saying they could offer levels of innovation often 20 years ahead of general industry thinking.
Craig Wakeman added: “We have always believed that HS2 can bring regeneration and long term economic benefits to the West Midlands, which is why we have adopted the line: ‘Beyond Building a Railway’.
These benefits could continue decades into the future but needed schools to start encouraging more young people to consider engineering as a career.
And he urged businesses in the room to support the establishment of a HS2 Strategic Supply Chain Panel to secure long term benefits for the region.
Johnathan Dudley said: “There are still railway carriages built in Birmingham, in use across the world, today. HS2 provides a golden opportunity to re-establish the British rail industry and its supply chain.
“We are already seeing remarkable work in Dudley and Coventry in the field of very light rail. It’s time to reclaim heavy rail as well. This is a real opportunity to inspire innovation and generate engineering expertise for generations to come. Indeed, much more than ‘building a railway’.
He added: “This round table event has been more successful that we could have hoped, providing a platform for real debate and exchange of views and producing solid results that will benefit both local companies and HS2.
“It proves the value of meeting face-to-face, when both sides come with a positive attitude, prepared to express frank opinions and listen with open minds.
“As a result, we are looking at repeating it in a few months’ time, with a view to making it a regular event on the business calendar.”
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- Miriam Sherwood, Director, People Communications & Marketing, Crowe UK. Tel: (0)121 543 1900, firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors:
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