High Speed 2, the planned fast rail link from London to various points north, promises to be a massive boost to the economies of the places where it stops – in fact the government has adopted the title: “HS2 – Engine for Growth”.
The first stage will be from London to the Midlands. Already, the UK Mail Group has had to build a new parcels hub in Coventry because its existing site near the M6 in Birmingham will be flattened to make way for the new line.
The Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership reckons that the region could deliver an extra £14 billion to the UK economy – but only if supply chains are prepared to make the most of it.
It has just published its “Midlands Growth Strategy”, which outlines how developing skills and access to training, ensuring supply chains are prepared and improving the connectivity of the region, will put the Midlands at the heart of the UK’s economic future.
Andy Street, the John Lewis managing director who chairs the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, says: “The arrival of HS2 in the Midlands is a once-in-a generation opportunity to do something really special. It’s not enough to simply lay tracks and build stations; we must take this chance to create a legacy for the region in terms of regeneration, jobs, skills, economic development and connectivity.”
And it is going to take lots of investment. In a draft document, “GBSLEP HS2 Business Support & Supply Chain Development and Management”, it looks at the investment needed to ensure that supply chains will benefit from HS2.
It has calculated that for the HS2 Supply Chain Initiative to maximise the wider economic benefits will require a government-funded £325m programme developing capability and capacity for larger companies and at scale.
It suggests a £25m “trail-blazer” programme over the coming year followed by the development of the full HS2 SCI programme after that.
And the report warns: “Should we not provide this level of support it will leave the SME supply chain exposed to competition from better prepared companies from overseas. The supply chain will become less competitive if they lose out on such supply chain work from HS2 which could result in potential job losses.”
It’s a stark warning: HS2 can be a massive economic boost but without the right investment, local supply chains could actually suffer.