The National Audit Office has released a report evaluating whether the DfT and HS2 Ltd can effectively manage the delivery of HS2 Euston.
Over 40bn GBP will be invested in the UK's transport network over the next two years, with a focus on delivering the first phase of HS2.
The two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) digging HS2’s longest tunnels has passed Amersham shaft on their 10 mile drive under the Chilterns.
HS2 has proposed changes to the construction design of its Manchester route following work with the UK Environment Agency.
New plans have been put forward to improve access to the proposed HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail station at Manchester Airport.
The High Speed Rail Group and HS2 Ltd have both hit back at a report created by the Cheshire Wildlife Trust about HS2's environmental impact.
Birmingham City Council has granted planning permission approval for HS2's Washwood Heath Depot, north-east of Birmingham city centre.
HS2's tunnel boring machines, Florence and Cecilia have passed the halfway point on their 10-mile journey excavating the Chiltern tunnels.
HS2 Ltd’s contractor, Align JV has installed the last of 292 concrete piles, forming the foundations for the UK’s longest railway bridge.
Network Rail has upgraded Banbury train depot to keep trains moving on the Chiltern main line during HS2 construction.
The first five-metre-tall V-shaped pier for the Curzon No. 3 Viaduct into HS2's Curzon Street Station in Birmingham has been installed.
A bridge that will carry direct rail services between Oxford and Cambridge has been positioned over the HS2 route near Calvert, Bucks.
HS2 has revealed designs for the Curzon 2 bridge: a 150-metre section of viaduct on the approach to Birmingham’s new Curzon Street Station.
Huw Merriman MP, Minister of State at the Department for Transport, will give a keynote address at this year’s Rail Industry Forum.
HS2’s tunnel boring machine (TBM) Dorothy has begun its second one-mile tunnel bore under Long Itchington Wood in Warwickshire.
HS2 's Euston site construction team Mace Dragados Joint Venture is trialling a hydrogen fuel cell to power a fully electric JCB telehandler.
A second 140 metre long, 2,050 tonnes tunnel boring machine (TBM) has begun its journey across London for HS2.
The West Midlands Rail Executive (WMRE) has revised its strategy on how to grow and develop the region’s rail network over the next 30 years.
HS2’s workforce has almost hit the 30,000 mark. This is down to the recruitment of 2,300 new employees in the last three months.
HS2’s main works contractor, EKFB, has started working on two of the project’s longest cuttings in Buckingham and Oxfordshire.
HS2 has launched the first of six tunnel boring machines (TBMs) that will dig more than 26 miles of tunnels under London.
HS2 Ltd has opened applications for tech start-ups and SMEs to join the fifth group of its Innovation Accelerator programme.
HS2 has commenced work on the thirty-eight cross passages that will link the northbound and southbound Chiltern tunnels.
Dorothy, HS2’s 2000-tonne tunnel boring machine, has made its first breakthrough on the UK's high-speed rail line from London to Birmingham.
HS2 Ltd has contracted Laing O’Rourke to build the HS2 Interchange Station in Solihull at the heart of the high-speed rail network.
The first design images have been revealed for HS2’s maintenance and control centre at the Washwood Heath Depot in Birmingham.
Transport companies have to have resilient cybersecurity systems in place so they can protect their assets and detect and respond to incidents.
Birmingham City Council has granted planning permission to HS2 Ltd to construct two viaducts in Birmingham.
HS2 has begun construction of the first of five ‘green tunnels’ that have been designed to blend into the landscape.
Balfour Beatty VINCI Joint Venture is trialling an electric, high-capacity drilling rig for construction in Warwickshire.
HS2 has announced that OpenSpace Group Ltd is using artificial intelligence (AI) and LiDAR sensors to develop future train stations.
Construction of the Colne Valley Viaduct has now started, overseen by HS2’s main works contractor Align JV.
HS2 has reached an agreement to purchase Square One on Travis Street, Manchester from property provider Bruntwood.
Jonn Elledge looks at the story behind Andy Burnham's pointed comments about the exorbitant costs of rail fares in Britain.
HS2 has unveiled updated environmentally-friendly designs for the Cubbington, Warwickshire section of the new high speed line.
HS2 has unveiled the final designs for the Thame Valley Viaduct, which will cross the River Thame’s flood plain near Aylesbury.
HS2 has unveiled designs for Chiltern Tunnel’s north portal, which focus on cutting noise from trains as they enter and exit the tunnel.
A new report highlights the role of HS2 and high speed rail in general in reducing emissions and ultimately achieving net zero.
The two tunnel boring machines digging the HS2 twin tunnels under the Chilterns have reached the ventilation shaft at Chalfont St Peter.
HS2 has shared updated designs for its high speed railway terminus station at London Euston, which will be set across three levels.
The Mace and Dragados joint venture (MD JV) – HS2’s construction partner for Euston station – is ramping up procurement this month.
A new piling technology, known as hollow impressed precast energy reusable pile (HIPER), is being trialled at HS2’s Euston station site.
HS2 has signed the Rail Supply Group’s Work Pipeline Visibility Charter and will share its rail systems' technical specifications publicly.
The ‘High Speed Rail (Crewe-Manchester) Bill’ – HS2 Phase 2b Western Leg – will be introduced in parliament today (24 January 2022).
HS2 has chosen TK Elevator to manufacture and install approximately 160 lifts and 130 escalators at its four main stations.
HS2 archaeologists have excavated a vast roman settlement in Northamptonshire - one of over 100 sites HS2 has examined since 2018.
HS2 has published its Net Zero Carbon Plan, which sets out how it plans to make the project net zero carbon from 2035.
HS2 has revealed the first images of its 1.5 mile-long Greatworth tunnel - one of three ‘green tunnels’ to be built in Bucks and Notts.
Balfour Beatty VINCI (BBV) has launched a recruitment drive to support HS2 construction works planned for 2022 and beyond.
Jonn Elledge gets into the Christmas spirit and does some finger-pointing as to who is really to blame for the state of Britain's railways.
The first of 56 giant concrete piers for the Colne Valley Viaduct has been cast. Once complete, this will be the UK's longest rail bridge.
The contract to design, build and maintain the HS2 rolling stock fleet for Phase 1 London-Birmingham has gone to the Hitachi Rail-Alstom JV.
The first tunnel boring machine working on HS2 in the Midlands launched on 2 December, excavating a one-mile tunnel in Warwickshire.
As part of Alstom's acquisition of Bombardier Transportation, the companies agreed to divest a number of assets, including the V300 ZEFIRO.
Stanton Precast has been awarded the contract to deliver three 'green tunnels' for HS2 by the main works contractor EKFB.
Work on HS2’s Old Oak Common 850-metre-long station box has begun. The reinforced concrete structure will form the station's frame and base.
The Integrated Rail Plan published today, 18 November 2021, announces a huge slash in new railway lines being built in England.
HS2 has published a shortlist of bidders for the Phase 2a Design and Delivery Partner contract. The winner will be announced next summer.
In this month's column, Jonn Elledge muses on the future of HS2's eastern leg and the political tug of war taking place behind the scenes.
HS2 tunnel boring machine ‘Florence’ has passed the one mile mark, cutting through a mix of chalk and flint beneath the Chiltern hills.
HS2 has invited six bidders to tender for a major two-part enabling works contract for its recently approved Phase 2a section.
One year on from the start of phase one's construction, HS2 has announced that 20,000 people are now working on the high-speed rail project.
HS2 has confirmed the shortlist of bidders to build its control centre and rolling stock maintenance depot.
HS2 Ltd has published revised images of the Adelaide Road headhouse in Camden, after changes were made to the design.
Images of HS2’s Chesham Road rural headhouse, which will provide emergency access to the 10-mile-long Chiltern tunnel, has been unveiled.
The companies shortlisted to build HS2's Interchange Station in Solihull have been named by HS2 Ltd. The contract is to be awarded in 2022.
Leaders from across Yorkshire and the North East of England have contributed to a report demonstrating the importance of HS2's Eastern Leg.
SCS JV has signed the first of two contracts for the production of tunnel segments that will be used to construct HS2’s London tunnels.
In a UK first, on-site 3D reinforced concrete printing will be deployed by HS2's London tunnels contractor SCS JV.
Excavation of the vent shaft at Chalfont St Peter has begun in Buckinghamshire. It is the first of five on the HS2 Chiltern tunnels section.
HS2 designers are set to more than halve the amount of embedded carbon used in one of the high-speed rail project’s viaducts.
HS2 has begun its search for a team of specialist ground investigation contractors for the western leg of Phase 2b from Crewe to Manchester.
HS2 has launched Cecilia, the second of two 2,000t tunnelling machines that will excavate ten-mile-long tunnels beneath the Chiltern Hills.
Permanent works on HS2's Old Oak Common station have got under way today with phase 1 seeing the construction of a 750,000m3 underground box.
HS2 has obtained approval for a scheme that will use excavated material to create new chalk grassland, woodland, wood pasture and wetland.
HS2 begins search for a construction partner to build Interchange Station. This will be at the centre of the new high speed rail network.
HS2 Ltd has revealed a new vacuum excavation technique for piling which could have massive benefits for the wider construction industry.
HS2 has deployed the first of 10 tunnel boring machines (TBMs) that will be used during phase one of the UK’s new high speed railway.
HS2 has confirmed that a team made up of Mace and Dragados will build Birmingham’s new city centre high speed railway station.
HS2 has presented its design of the Oxford Canal Viaduct that will measure 62.5m and span the canal and towpath between Banbury and Daventry.
HS2 Ltd has published its shortlist of companies it has asked to tender for the high-speed railway's high-voltage power supply systems.
HS2 has cast the first of 112,000 wall segments for the high-speed railway's 10-mile Chiltern tunnel outside of London.
Work has begun on what will be the UK's longest rail viaduct – the Colne Valley Viaduct to the northwest of London, measuring 3.4km.
HS2 will use retired wind turbine blades originally destined for the incinerator to make reinforced concrete that is carbon-friendly.
HS2 Ltd has started its search for a specialist contractor to deliver the high-speed railway's engineering management system (EMS).
Following the formal handover of the Heathrow Express depot to Network Rail, NR will begin its decommissioning work in preparation for HS2.
Collins Earthworks has completed the preparation of the HS2 site in Warwickshire in readiness for tunnelling to start this summer.
HS2 Ltd has started its search for a contractor to build the rolling stock depot and control centre at Washwood Heath in Birmingham.
HS2 Ltd has revealed the design of the Euston tunnel headhouse that will sit alongside the West Coast Main Line in London.
HS2 Phase 2a, connecting the high-speed line from London to Crewe via Birmingham, has received royal assent in parliament.
HS2 has revealed its final design for the headhouse and vent shaft at Chalfont St Giles which will provide ventilation to the Chiltern tunnel.
Comments in the Commissioner's report stating the government is exploring cutting down platform numbers at HS2 Euston have sparked concern.
The first of five headhouses that will provide ventilation and emergency access to the HS2 Chiltern tunnel has gained planning approval.
The designs for the HS2 viaducts at Water Orton in Warwickshire have been unveiled following a public consultation in spring 2020.
HS2 has started its search for a switches and crossings supplier for Phase 1 and Phase 2a of the high-speed line between London and Crewe.
The National Infrastructure Commission has published its Rail Needs Assessment report, causing widespread dismay over possible cuts to HS2.
HS2 Ltd has revealed the first images of the north portal for the Long Itchington Wood tunnel site southeast of Birmingham.
HS2 and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) will work together on utility diversions in readiness of the metro eastside extension.
Network Rail has announced major works at Euston for the construction of the HS2 terminus and on the West Coast Main Line in 2021.
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by Josephine Cordero Sapién
21 Jun 2019
Equality. Diversity. Inclusion. This Is Not Altruism.
On 23 June it is International Women in Engineering Day. HS2 Ltd is one of the companies in rail proactively working towards changing the employment landscape in construction and engineering.
Curzon Street Station visual © HS2 Ltd
At Railtex this year Mark Lomas, Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at HS2, gave a talk entitled ‘The Shape of Things to Come’. This, for me, was the most engaging and thought-provoking moment of the show. He explained why EDI is not altruism and how companies are screening out the workforce they desperately need from the get-go:
“HS2 is a massive, massive infrastructure programme. So why is diversity important to us? I’m sure you’re familiar with the research that says diverse workforces are more innovative and the McKinsey research that says that private sector companies are more profitable.
In a very short amount of time we’re going to have a lot of people out on site. What we’ve been able to establish through our research, through our new method of embedding diversity into health and safety is: diverse sites are safer.
There are a number of critical reasons why for us, actually, a huge programme like we have presents a massive opportunity.
The first one is that a long-term programme like HS2 enables long-term change.
The first one is that a long-term programme like HS2 enables long-term change. And if we’re honest with ourselves, and we look at construction and the infrastructure industry generally, we’re about twenty years behind the curve in most areas. We look at media, or the efforts around diversity that have gone into banking, financial services etc. and they far outstrip those in construction.
The philosophy behind how we design our EDI work is quite simple. If people have done what they’ve done for the past twenty years and, bluntly, it hasn’t worked, given the time-frame that HS2 has, why would we do the same thing and expect a different result? We might as well approach things a little differently.
And I’ll talk to you about what we’d like to achieve – our goals and our measures of success. We have twenty-odd years from basically a standing start, maybe 2009–12, but if we don’t have the most diverse workforce in leadership in the infrastructure sector by the time we get to the end of the programme I don’t think we’ll have done our jobs properly. We’re well on the way there already. We want to ensure that a much broader base of skills gets into the construction industry and I’ll talk to you about why.
If we don’t have the most diverse workforce in leadership in the infrastructure sector by the time we get to the end of the programme I don’t think we’ll have done our jobs properly.
It’s not a zero-sum game with a programme like HS2 and other investment going on in infrastructure. We actually are losing the talent pool required to make this thing sustainable. So this isn’t about moving one cohort of people out to move another cohort of people in. We just need more people. And it’s a lovely situation to be in and diversity is one of the answers to that problem. It’s not a problem for companies to pick over, it’s the answer to a sustainable sector. At the moment every HS2 major contractor is well over-representing the industry in terms of diversity and inclusion, so what we’re doing so far is working.
This isn’t about moving one cohort of people out to move another cohort of people in.
The next step is really important to me. We have to deliver vastly improved levels of accessibility compared to current rail services.
HS2’s Success Measure for Its EDI Strategy
We can’t get away from the fact that we operate in communities up and down this country. If you were born last year, or 2012–13, in actual fact, by the time the programme finishes, depending on where you live, you could have seen HS2 for the next ten, fifteen years. We’re going to be judged by those communities on how we engage them in the project. And for me that means being able to measure the business opportunities – supply chain opportunities that go into that community. That’s why we measure supplier diversity, SMEs, diverse businesses from across the programme. The programme has spent £20 million already with diverse companies up and down the UK and that will increase as the programme expands.
How we get involved in education, training and deliver employment opportunities – all of those are hugely important. And that’s the story that I’d like to be able to tell at the end of the HS2 programme: number 1 – we had the most diverse workforce in leadership; number 2 – in actual fact we broadened the skill base in construction and infrastructure significantly. You can get on an HS2 train and go around the station in an accessible and inclusive manner. And up and down this country there are communities that have benefitted in terms of education, training, business and employment. That’s the story, that’s the success measure for our EDI strategy.
The Skills Shortage in Rail
But this is not altruism. If we look at what’s required to build a project – and at peak level there’ll be well over 30,000 people working on the HS2 programme; at the moment we have around 7,000 people working in the supply chain for the programme – but a quarter of the workforce is due to retire in 2028. That’s a big problem. Now let’s add Brexit to the mix and we don’t know what’s going to happen with that but around 13% of workers on construction sites are migrant labour. Now we’re getting upwards of 40% potential workforce disappearing. So we have to attract new groups into the industry in order to make the industry sustainable and this is where the issue of doing the same thing for the last twenty years gets us into the problems we’re in.
I presume most of you work in the industry so maybe your kids come home and say ‘I want to work in rail!’, but how many people do you know who’ve called you up and said, ‘do you know, my kid came home today and said the number one thing they want to do is work in construction or work in rail or work in infrastructure’. How many proud parents have you had go, ‘oh, so-and-so wants to be a doctor, a lawyer, a financier!’ Anybody heard that conversation ever? Exactly. So this is the problem that we are in.
Number 1: we have an ageing workforce that is going to retire in the next ten years and we’re not replacing them.
The second is, even when we do look at apprenticeships and skills, we are by no means getting to the groups that we need to. One in eight engineering occupations are women and when you look at apprenticeship numbers and conversion rates, it’s still really, really poor. So let’s have a look at why that happens. Why is it that efforts to attract groups into infrastructure and construction tend to fail?
‘The reality is, women just don’t want to work in construction’
Well, about a year and a half ago I was giving a talk and a senior leader in a construction business came up to me and said, ‘I love what you were saying and whatever, but the reality is women just don’t want to work in construction and there’s nothing that you can say that’s going to change that.’ So I thought, let’s have a go at seeing if that’s true.
We did a survey with mumsnet. And we looked at women who had left the sector or were interested in the sector and within two weeks we got over two thousand responses. The number one barrier why people didn’t want to return to the sector or why they left was that working conditions weren’t flexible enough. Now, HS2 is going to build a railway that can be seen from space. And it’s got to be accurate within millimetres. It seems a little silly to say that the best engineers in the UK can’t figure out flexible working.
HS2 is going to build a railway that can be seen from space. And it’s got to be accurate within millimetres. It seems a little silly to say that the best engineers in the UK can’t figure out flexible working.
It doesn’t seem like that’s too difficult. Construction sites work on shifts. And yet we can’t change the industry to accommodate better flexible patterns. Doesn’t make sense. HS2 has already changed both the way we procure consultancy service contracts and the hourly requirements embedded into contracts to enable more flexible working. We have that on-going at the moment.
But it’s industry standard to have contracts that say you cannot get paid if you don’t work at a nominated office, regardless of the agile technology we have. So there’s no point in inviting diverse groups into the industry to screen them out. And then we get to some of the other things that we’ve seen.
Who knows the Spanish word for ‘bridge’? El puente. It’s a masculine word. Who knows the German word for ‘bridge’? Die Brücke. It’s feminine. And researchers asked a thousand Spanish people and a thousand German people to describe the bridge. The Spanish said, ‘strong, sturdy, resilient, copes under pressure’. And the Germans said, ‘sleek, elegant, beautiful, curvy’. All the same kind of words.
Download some job descriptions from your website and have a look at the language in them and then delete everything that’s not an adjective. And what you will get is a personality-related descriptor. ‘Strong, outgoing, ambitious, drive, determined’ – actually very little about objective skills. These sorts of things create an image in the mind of the person looking at the job and the person doing the selection.
Changing Recruitment Strategies
My first day at HS2 when I looked and we were having trouble recruiting community engagement people, I said, let’s have a look at what we’re asking. Number 1 criteria: ‘must be educated to degree level’. In what? Home-baking? Microbiology? What? It’s so broad, it’s meaningless. I thought we wanted people who could talk to the community.
The second: ‘must have experience in the transport or infrastructure sector’. Well if you know anything about the sector, there are only about 13–17% women in the sector, so there went one diverse group, only 6–9% BAME groups, so there went that diverse group. Only 2% disabled people, so there went that diverse group. And yet, we wanted people to talk to the community and nowhere were we assessing them on knowledge of that community. So failing at the first hurdle is something that organisations around the sector are very good at.
If your recruitment website has not been tested for accessibility, it’s not accessible. And therefore you’re cutting out a whole swathe of people who can’t even get to the starting line. And then we get CV-based selection. No research in the world shows that CV-based selection in an objective measure of selection.
DWP sent out over a thousand applications for 3,000 jobs in 2009 and to cut a long story short, if your name was a little different, you had a much lower chance of success. For an English name it was 1 in 9, African or Asian it was 1 in 16. So we have been piloting a type of recruitment called blind auditioning. And that removes CVs and application forms entirely and replaces it with an anonymous test.
When we introduced this form of recruitment, success rates for women in shortlisting jumped 20% minimum. BAME groups by 20% minimum, disabled groups by 15% minimum. Why? Because it is competency and skill-based selection. And we’re testing that. So if you get into the interview room it’s because you’re competent to do the job. I don’t know how many of you have seen on how many CVs in the sector people ‘delivered Crossrail’. But I’ve seen so many CVs saying people ‘delivered Crossrail’ single-handedly, it led me to believe CVs can be embellished somewhat.
If we were looking at it as an engineering problem, you would look at the point of failure and you would change the point of failure. Instead of changing the point of failure, people seem obsessed with trying to change the people.
We also take this approach with our early years. And we’ve replaced CVs and applications with situational judgement testing in a blended assessment centre. And it’s no mistake that our apprenticeship programme is really a diverse group. 35% BAME, 40% women in a sector where, remember, 1 in 8 as a whole is the best that we do. Why? Because you don’t need to chase down people endlessly. There are those who are interested. But once they’re interested, we screen them out.
If we were looking at it as an engineering problem, you would look at the point of failure and you would change the point of failure. Instead of changing the point of failure, people seem obsessed with trying to change the people. And that’s never going to work. It’s not worked for 20 years. It’s a failed approach. You wouldn’t take a failed approach over and over and over again in engineering.
Inclusion by Design
We’ve run over 1,000 experiments this year alone on the platform-train interface and how people independently can get on and off trains. Now, actually, there is really poor data for disabled travellers because it in the main relies on assistance being booked. What happens to the business case for disabled people around the UK and for business based around HS2 stations when the train and station environment is accessible and millions more disabled people can travel around the UK easily and access employment opportunities? Well, let’s have a look at a piece of design [passenger seat information signs]. What happens if you can’t see? Woops. Design failure. Why? Because actually, the people you tested the design with wasn’t broad enough.
That kind of issue we don’t really want to have. That’s why we have a built environment accessibility plan and a customer plan. People all across the UK, with different abilities, disabilities help us test designs. Interestingly enough, in my research I wasn’t able to find one train operating company around the world that has a packaged solution for this simple thing, which is a visually impaired person being able to find their reserved seat on a train. I’d love to know if there is. But I haven’t found one yet.
Why Language Matters
Which then brings us to talking to people in the language that they want to be spoken to. We spent a long time trying to figure out why diversity in construction fails and so we went to the construction site and we talked to operatives and we talked to construction managers, who were very polite but also very rude about diversity. They thought it was all the HR police etc. But in our conversations we did manage to identify that what they cared about was safety. And actually, we’ve come up with a methodology of hiding diversity in health and safety. Both in the languages, the practices and the assurance measures. Which means we’re able to talk effectively with people who are on a construction site about diversity and inclusion.
For example, the safety briefing: in English. Well, if you know how construction sites work, the person who’s best with English for this group translates. In fact, on another high-profile programme there was someone who was killed precisely because of that. They went into the wrong area and were killed. Well actually, that’s about your inclusive health and safety practices. We’ve identified those key risks across construction and with our early works contractors and now our main works contractors we’re putting in a new method of implementing diversity at a construction site level. Early findings are very good but we have much more to do.
Which brings us on to how we engage with communities. We tend to have the ability to make language translations but we also use a form of communication called ‘easy read’. Easy read was designed for people with learning difficulties but in fact it’s a fantastic way of getting across a message really quickly. A picture accompanied by a simple texts which makes the point. And we find that a load of people like to interact with our easy-read communications.
We’re getting more and more sophisticated with how we talk to our communities. We created digital tools which at the touch of a button can tell you everything from internet usage in a local authority area to socio-economic bandings to religious demographic make-up. So our teams can engage with people in the way people need them to be engaged.
Diversity is not political correctness, it is the solution to the talent problem facing our sector.
That’s just a quick tour through why diversity is important to us as a programme. And we can see it happening. Less than 2.5 years into the programme a majority of our Tier 1 contractors have achieved their EDI accreditations. And I firmly believe HS2 will be the first infrastructure programme in the world to have a Tier 1 construction supply chain which is fully EDI-accredited. We’re winning awards for the way we’re inventing new methods of practice.
But this is only the beginning. As the programme expands, we will get more innovation through SMEs, more innovation through understanding. And at the moment all HS2 contracts are outperforming industry averages in terms of diversity and inclusion. But this is just the start for us. We have another 17 years in which to help the industry fundamentally change the way it practises diversity and inclusion. So I’ll leave you with a quote by another Mark: ‘Diversity is not political correctness, it is the solution to the talent problem facing our sector. And it is the shape of things to come.’”