HS2’s workforce passes 30,000 milestone

The number of people in jobs, supporting HS2’s construction, has hit a record high. 

New data confirms more than 30,000 people are now helping to build the new high speed network linking the UK’s first and second cities.

Employment numbers grew by 455 for the period July-September, taking HS2’s total workforce 30,204 – the highest figure to date. 

The employment boost reflects the scale of progress on the London to Birmingham network during the summer months.

In the Midlands, three bridge moves were completed in just one month, works began on the longest green tunnel in Northants, and six tunnel boring machines continued to make headway through the Chilterns, London and Warwickshire.

The sharp focus on tackling unemployment and creating a skilled workforce for the future, also progressed at pace. 

In the last quarter, 298 people who were out of work benefitted from bespoke training programmes which led to them starting new careers on the project. 

The total number of formerly unemployed now working on HS2 has reached 3,826.

HS2’s long-term investment in apprenticeships also continued. During the quarter 81 new apprentice starts were recorded, taking the total number of new apprentice starts since Royal Assent to 1,380.

Natalie Penrose, HS2’s head of legacy, said: “We made a cast iron commitment to ensuring HS2’s construction would support thousands of young people, and the unemployed, into meaningful careers. Three years into our heavy civils works, we’ve achieved just that.

“We remain focused on our goal of creating 2,000 apprenticeships and helping as many people as possible to upskill, retrain and start a new career.”

Ben Bacon, 21, from Birmingham recently started a tunnelling operative apprenticeship on HS2 with Balfour Beatty VINCI (BBV). 

He’d been in and out of jobs since Covid, most recently working in a warehouse, but was laid off because there wasn’t enough work.

He said: “I was claiming Job Seekers Allowance, and because I have learning difficulties, I was put in touch with the Shaw Trust. They help match people to companies that offer additional support. 

“BBV said they’d invest in training me up, through an apprenticeship, and ensure I had the support I needed.

“I was one of 10 apprentices they took on, and I’ve not looked back. I always wanted to work in construction, but just couldn’t find the right route in.  

“Now I’m progressing through my training and really enjoying the camaraderie of being part of the tunnelling team. I want to continue progressing at the rate I am. In previous jobs I’ve just been a number, it’s not like that here, they really care, regardless of your background, you can succeed.”

The number of UK businesses in HS2’s supply chain also increased in the last quarter, with 144 more companies winning work. 3,236 UK firms are now supplying goods, services and materials to support the project’s construction.

Telford-based Freyssinet has played a major role in HS2’s bridge installation works in the West Midlands and credits its repeat contract awards with supporting company growth.

Pascal Mercier, managing director of civil and structural engineering specialist Freyssinet, said: “In the West Midlands alone, Freyssinet’s involvement with HS2 includes technical assistance for the installation of bridge prestressing, the supply of 1,000+ bridge bearings and the creation of a training academy, plus three significant structure slides including the now award-winning Marston box slide over the M42 motorway. 

“These projects alone will enable the creation of 100+ qualified jobs from trainee to project manager levels.”



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