Comment: HS2 will define the future of the UK construction industry
The UK’s former National Infrastructure Commission Chair Lord Adonis believes the future of the country’s construction industry hinges on the successful delivery of HS2.
Speaking at the NEC Users’ Group Annual Seminar this week, the Labour peer said the project will be the defining factor in whether future major infrastructure projects ever get off the ground post Brexit.
He also said the biggest threat to HS2 success is no longer political backing, but the industry’s own ability to collaborate efficiently and effectively.
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“HS2 is critical to the rebalancing of the country between London and the regions, especially the North,” he told the Westminster audience. “It must delivered efficiently, timely and cost effectively to be seen as a success.”
A UK government flagship project, HS2, like the Heathrow Airport expansion, has been subject to enormous political, economic and social debate.
The first phase of construction, connecting London to the West Midlands, is said to create 20,000 construction roles and approximately 20,000 apprenticeships.
Speaking last year, HS2 Ltd Managing Director of Rail Operations Chris Rayner said: “HS2 represents a once in a lifetime chance to rebalance the national economy. It will transform travel in this country, connecting eight of the 10 largest cities in the UK when completed, as well as improving capacity for customers and productivity for the economy.”
As well as commenting on HS2, Lord Adonis also pointed towards the need for the UK to upgrade its aging Victorian rail infrastructure. Electrification projects, notably around Blackpool, have led to issues with rail timetabling which has resulted in mass disruption for commuters.
France to invest €1.8bn in Egypt’s infrastructure
France will invest a total of €1.8bn into Egypt’s infrastructure focusing specifically on upgrading the Cairo Metro, building a railway to Sudan, and developing water and energy schemes. Officials have called the investment a “major boost to bilateral cooperation”.
The Cairo Metro
Included in the financing is a concessional government loan of around €800mn to upgrade Line 1 of the Cairo Metro, introduced in the 1980s. The financing will pay for 55 trainsets for the line and is provided by the French engineering company, Alstom.
Line 6 is also due to be upgraded using further state-guaranteed loans worth up to €2bn. Bruno Le Maire said that this would be negotiated over the next six months. France and Egypt have worked in close cooperation ever since Abdel Fattah al-Sisi became president in 2014, despite differences over human rights and strong criticism of Egypt by rights activists and some foreign states.
Nine more projects over the next half a decade
A further €1bn from France’s development agency, Agence Française de Développement (AFD), aims to cover a range of other projects over the next half a decade.
These projects include a railway line between Aswan, southern Egypt, and Wadi Halfa in Sudan, as well as several projects in the renewable energy and water purification industries. Bruno Le Maire, France’s Finance Minister, said Egypt was a “strategic partner and commercial dealings with it would be developed. France will substantially increase its direct exposure to Egypt, becoming the first counter-party for government to government loans,” he said.
According to Le Maire, the AFD will also €150mn to support the construction of a universal health insurance programme. French contractors such as Vinci and Bouygues have a long history of working on the Egyptian capital’s underground system.
Talking about the relationship between France And Egypt, Le Maire concluded: “France will substantially increase its direct exposure to Egypt, becoming the first counter-party for government to government loans”.