'Up your game' HS2 chairman tells the sector

Sector needs to be more streamlined says Sir David Higgins as Transport Secretary calls on new approach to rail upgrades

The chairman of HS2 has thrown down the gauntlet to UK construction and engineering firms and called on them to learn the lessons of construction elsewhere and become more streamlined in their approach. Sir David Higgins made his comments in a speech in Manchester marking the second anniversary of the launch of his first report in the city.

HS2, he said, was determined to adopt a new approach which would bear down on those factors and transform the way we deliver infrastructure in this country, without compromising HS2’s strategic objective to re-balance the British economy.

That approach would include:

- early contractor involvement to drive innovation and efficiencies in design and methodology;

- adopting enabling works contracts to clear the line of route ahead of the main civils works;

- incentivising companies to out-perform;

- adopting techniques new to this country such as linear construction, which uses the newly constructed route as a supply chain access.

"As a twenty year project we have no excuse not to become more streamlined in our approach and not to innovate" Higgins said that the lessons learnt from applying this approach to Phase One would be then be transferred to Phase Two.

He claimed that the project is already changing the way private investors, as well as local and central government plan for the future in Britain. He said HS2 must also help change the way we deliver infrastructure in this country so as we can reap the benefits for future projects such as Hinckley Point.

Meanwhile, Network Rail has been told to consider closing entire lines to carry out engineering work, rather than attempting to complete the majority of rebuilding projects at night or during public holidays such as Christmas and Easter, reports The Times.

Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, said there should be “quicker, ambitious plans for major reconstruction”. He praised a five-week shutdown of Nottingham station in 2013 as an example of the best way to carry out engineering work.

It comes amid concerns about huge delays and spiralling costs for some projects, including the electrification of the Great Western mainline. 

Network Rail is undertaking 450 separate improvement projects hich almost all take place at night or over bank holidays.