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Grayling praises HS2 College, but poll shows public unimpressed by high speed rail

Grayling praises HS2 College, but poll shows public unimpressed by high speed rail

🕔06.Oct 2016

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling underlined the Government’s backing for high speed rail by visiting Birmingham’s HS2 College where the engineers needed to deliver the £50 billion project will be trained.

A topping out ceremony took place at the Aston-based National College for High Speed Rail just five months after the ground was first broken to allow building work to begin.

Finalising the roof structure is a significant point in the construction phase and means the College is on course to open to students in September 2017 when it will provide the specialist training, skills and qualifications required to build HS2 and future rail infrastructure projects.

Mr Grayling said the College, along with its sister site in Doncaster, will play a vital role in ensuring Britain addresses the impending skills shortage in the engineering sector while upskilling the current workforce.

The Government has estimated that British businesses will need approximately 87,000 graduate level engineers every year for the next ten years and 30 per cent of the current workforce will need further training to deliver the demands of the High Speed Rail industry.

Mr Grayling, said:

HS2 will be the backbone of our national rail network and help us build an economy that works for all. The significant benefits of the scheme will not just be felt from when the trains start running.

Work on the new College sites shows the transformational effect that HS2 is already having, creating jobs and supporting economic growth. Around 25,000 jobs and 2,000 apprenticeships will be generated during construction of HS2, which is due to begin next year.

The UK is highly regarded for its engineering capabilities but we need to do more to attract new talent to the sector as well as improving the skills of the current workforce. That is why the Government launched a transport skills strategy earlier this year committing us to create 30,000 apprenticeships across roads and rail by 2020.

The National College for High Speed Rail is a vital part of these plans as it will provide the cutting-edge skills we need to deliver HS2 and other world-beating infrastructure.

The ceremony coincided with the publication of a poll which found 51 per cent of Birmingham residents thought HS2 was a waste of money. Research conducted by LBC Radio and YouGov found that half of respondents thought the HS2 money would be better spent elsewhere in the public sector, against 33 per cent who thought spending £50 billion on high speed rail was a good use of public money.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones told a fringe meeting at the Conservative party conference the public mood would change when the HS2 track between London and Birmingham began to be laid. Mr Jones said:

We do need to win hearts and minds. I can talk about cost benefit figures and thousands of jobs being created now, but when it comes to it, it is when we start building, when people see the opportunities that are there then I think people will get excited about HS2.

Beth West, Commercial Director for HS2 Ltd, said:

HS2 provides the opportunity to drive productivity and growth and increase the UK’s international competitiveness in high-tech engineering and construction. It demands new higher-level technical skills for jobs not yet in existence in the UK. The College is vital to the delivery of High Speed Rail across Britain and so it’s extremely pleasing to see the great progress being made.

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