WMCA says region expects 5-year construction boom
Image: Grimshaw's design for Curzon Street HS2 Station,in central Birmingham.
Future Cities Forum will be discussing the growth of infrastructure and construction in the UK at its 'Making of the Modern City' forum to be held next month in the City of London. Discussions will focus on how major infrastructure projects such as HS2 are creating jobs and skills training and how joined-up transport and housing can be built with good quality public realm
The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has welcomed new HS2 figures showing how more than 6,800 people are now working on the construction of the high-speed rail project in the West Midlands.
As well as laying track and building tunnels and bridges for the giant infrastructure project, they are also working on the construction of two new railway stations - at ‘Curzon Street’ in Birmingham city centre and ‘Interchange’ at Solihull, near to the airport and NEC.
The HS2 workforce also includes some 539 previously unemployed people and 344 apprentices from the West Midlands. Some of them have been trained on construction skills courses funded by the WMCA.
The project is also supporting many more jobs and businesses across the region through the supply chain. Cllr Ian Courts, the WMCA’s portfolio lead for environment, energy and HS2 and leader of Solihull Council, said:
'HS2 will transform transport in Birmingham and the West Midlands but it is about so much more than that. It is critical for our wider success as a region and has already attracted major inward investment creating jobs and growth far beyond the rail and construction sectors.
'These new figures from HS2 show how it is having a positive effect in helping thousands of people from our region into well-paid, skilled jobs and apprenticeships, as well as supporting many more thousands of jobs and businesses through the supply chain.'
The WMCA is also funding rail engineering training, through the Construction Gateway scheme at Wolverhampton College’s Wellington Road campus in Bilston. The facility, which has a 40 metre training track, is the first in the UK to offer training on slab track technology which is used in the construction of high-speed rail lines like HS2.
High speed rail is just one part of more than £12 billion of infrastructure investment taking place across the region, including new West Midlands Metro extensions and the regeneration of hundreds of acres of brownfield land for new homes and commercial premises. This is driving a construction boom in the West Midlands with an estimated 30,000 staff needed to work in the industry over the next five years.
This has seen the WMCA support the region’s further education providers with construction training courses to give young people the skills needed to secure well-paid jobs in the sector.
At Future Cities Forum's levelling up event in Birmingham last July, Cllr Courts commented:
'Look at what's happening in the wider region - we are all working together, all the local authorities for a common end. Most investment comes from the private sector, not government and what we do regionally is the most important element here. What we have a duty to do is make our place the most attractive possible for investment. The best locations get through in any political turmoil and we are one of the best located places already in the country. The connectivity is excellent and we are going to exploit that.
'The new HS2 (interchange) station at Solihull will be very complementary to HS2 Curzon Street in Birmingham, and it will sit next to the NEC, the airport and motorways. It is going to be in one of the best connected places in Europe, less than forty minutes from London. Yes, there is an issue around timescale, as it is years away, but HS2 has just agreed to release thirty acres of land in the next four years around the station site, and the University has submitted plans for a health campus which will be transformative for the region.'