HS2 deliveries hit by national rail strike
Operations on the GBP100bn High Speed 2 project have been disrupted by this week’s rail strikes, forcing material deliveries to be rescheduled. Tens of thousands of rail workers started industrial action yesterday, and are due to strike again on Thursday and Saturday this week over a disagreement on pay and job security. Construction chiefs voiced fears last month over the effects of the action – billed as the biggest rail strike for 30 years – on major projects that rely on trains for vital resources.
Now, the client body for HS2 has said certain material shipments have been postponed because of the staff walkouts. It follows Construction News reporting earlier this week that Network Rail had lost GBP50m on various projects due to the strikes. A HS2 spokesperson told CN: “Our contractors have assessed the potential impact of this week’s rail strikes, and are putting contingency plans in place where necessary to get people and materials to site.
“Although many of our rail deliveries will continue to occur, some deliveries of bulk materials, such as aggregate, have been rescheduled.” The spokesperson added that aggregates have been stockpiled on site to allow for disruption to deliveries. The Construction Leadership Council’s product availability working group raised “concerns” about the impact of the strikes in a statement at the end of May.
It said planned industrial action would “affect aggregate and concrete deliveries to major infrastructure products”, and urged the government to prioritise the transport of construction materials. The Department for Transport (DfT) insisted it had put contingency measures in place to prioritise critical deliveries, but declined to go into detail. “Be assured that construction is on the priority list,” said a spokesperson this week. However, with union bosses predicting there could be “months of disruption” ahead if rail workers’ demands are not met, large-scale projects such as HS2 could suffer further interruption in the coming weeks.
A spokesperson for the Railway Industry Association this month urged all parties to “get round the table and come to an agreement as soon as possible, so that we can continue to attract passengers back to rail and build a world-class network for the future”. However, the RMT said in a statement last weekend: “Despite the best efforts of our negotiators, no viable settlements to the disputes have been created. We call on our members to stand firm, support the action, mount the pickets and demonstrate their willingness to fight for workplace justice.”
Meanwhile, a group of more than 40 companies this week expressed interest in taking on work for HS2 along the route between Crewe and Manchester.
The event, hosted by the project client in partnership with Crewe and Nantwich MP Dr Kieran Mullan, gave businesses in the area the opportunity to understand more about HS2’s current and future pipeline of contract opportunities.
Earlier this month, the government praised construction workers for keeping HS2 “on time and on budget”, despite significant workforce and economic pressures.