Construction skill shortages partly to blame for rocketing cost of HS2

The damming House of Lords report on HS2 criticised the project in many different ways, but one contributor to the report suggested that a shortage of skills is also playing a part in the skyrocketing costs of HS2 construction.

The chairman of HS2, Sir David Higgins, provided evidence to the Lords suggesting that the UK’s lack of experience in building new railway lines was contributing to the high cost of HS2. The project is set to cost £90 million per kilometre, compared with the £23.3 million per kilometre cost of the HS1 link from the Channel Tunnel to London.

Higgins explained that the industry in the UK is very fragmented – public and private sector firms always base decisions on the lowest cost, not necessarily on quality. As such, firms throughout the supply chain see the margins under continual pressure, leaving little room for long-term investment in skills. The UK also lacks large multidiscipline contractor companies that Spain, Germany and France have in their ranks – these are the companies that invest in skills for the future.

He explained that the public sector needed to be the first to change its ways. ‘The biggest buyer of construction in this country is the Government, and the Government needs to buy on terms other than: “I am just going to screw you to the lowest possible cost. I am not going to worry about your commitment to R&D or investment in skill.”’

Construction companies will certainly be familiar with this situation. Construction accounting software is increasingly being used by SMEs in the construction industry in an attempt to stay profitable and identify problem jobs before costs spiral out of control. Speak to Integrity Software to arrange a free demonstration.

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