The construction industry is currently experiencing a rapid bounce back from the issues seen last year and is set to grow by 1 per cent per year leading up to 2025.
According to the Construction Industry Training Board, the industry will need 217,000 additional workers by 2025, the need being driven in no small part by the rise in major infrastructure projects.
Infrastructure projects are set to expand by 5.2 per cent by the year 2025, helped by large scale road infrastructure schemes, the third runway at Heathrow Airport, the London Resort Theme Park, as well as High Speed 2.
High Speed 2 (HS2) is a purpose-built high-speed railway network that links London to Birmingham for Phase 1 before splitting off into two lines that travel on either side of the Pennines before reaching Manchester in the North West and Leeds in the North East.
With a budget of over £30bn and an estimated 30,000 construction staff being involved in its construction, HS2 is one of the biggest infrastructure projects in UK history and has helped to boost the construction industry during a difficult period last year.
The project has taken well over a decade to even begin construction, with the aim for Phase 1 to be completed by 2033.
To understand the effect HS2 has had on the construction industry it is important to know where the project began and what makes it such a vast undertaking.
What Is High-Speed Rail?
High Speed Rail (HSR) is a purpose-built railway network that instead of focusing on travelling to a lot of local railway stations has a limited network of stations that it travels very fast to get to.
The first, and by far the most famous example of this is the Tokaido Shinkansen, launched in 1964. Known as the “Bullet Train” (Dangan Ressha), the train travels across 320 miles of line between Japan’s capital Tokyo and Osaka at a top speed of 177mph.
Soon after this Le Capitole was launched in France between Paris and Toulouse, soon to be replaced by the TGV, and other lines of varying speeds were introduced in Italy, Germany and the UK, the latter in the form of the Intercity 125 travelling at 125mph.
The UK’s first foray into true HSR however started in 1996, after the launch of Eurostar in 1994. Before the launch of HS1, trains could travel at up to 186mph in France but once it exited the channel tunnel the Eurostar would only be able to run at 100mph on standard rails.
The two phases of construction took 11 years in total due to a myriad of financial and technical issues including lighting equipment requirements for the miles of tunnels that led to the 67-mile track costing £51m per mile between the Channel Tunnel in Dover and London St Pancras station.
High Speed 2 was initially announced in 2009, two years after the last section of HS1 was completed, which would initially travel from London to the West Midlands. This plan became Phase 1 of the currently in construction HS2.
The first debate surrounding the proposed route was whether it would inherently travel via Heathrow Airport station. Whilst this would provide a key link for travellers to head across the country, it would add 7 minutes to every journey and considerable extra construction time.
Ultimately, a separate high-speed link would be added to Heathrow after HS2 was completed.
Before that would be completed came the proposed Phase 2, which created a y-shaped route that branched off to Manchester and Leeds.
It took five years for the decision to go ahead to make it through parliament as the High-Speed Rail (London to West Midlands) Act 2017, and a revised version of the Phase 2a route which headed to Crewe would only be approved in February 2021.
During Phase 1, a total of ten tunnels will be constructed with tunnel boring machines that dig the tunnel and line the side with concrete wall segments that the boring machine also grouts into place.
These build at a pace of 15 metres per day and are expected to excavate 64 miles of tunnels by the project’s completion.
Some tunnels, such as those in Wendover, the West Midlands, and Northamptonshire, are expected to be built using a cut-and-cover technique, where once the trench has been excavated and a roof placed over it, the land on top will be restored so the tunnel blends into the landscape.
As well as this, 500 bridges and 50 viaducts are set to be constructed, including one across the Colne Valley. These larger construction projects are set to be completed first along with the four new stations set to be built along the route.