HS2 rail contracts set to trigger boom for British steel companies

A four-day event aimed at alerting businesses to potential contracts begins today (Image: PA)

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Steel firms are set to enjoy a bonanza from HS2 as companies are invited to bid for £12billion worth of deals for the vast rail project.

Bosses for the high speed network today released details of lucrative supply chain contracts that will be issued over the next 18 months.

HS2 Ltd kicks off a four-day event so businesses can learn more about contributing to the scheme, which could eventually cost £106billion.

In a potentially huge boost for the Mirror's Save Our Steel campaign, it is understood 52 “steel-related” companies have signed up to attend online seminars this week – and 34 steel-related firms have one-to-one meetings with contractors. Of those, 30 are UK-based.

HS2 Ltd's chief executive Mark Thurston said: “The Government has said that construction must continue during the lockdown, and for HS2 that means continuing to bring more and more companies onto the project, creating thousands of jobs across Britain.

HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston
(Image: Shutterstock)

An artist's impression of an HS2 train on the Birmingham and Fazeley viaduct, part of the proposed route
(Image: PA)

“This event will unlock billions of pounds worth of new contract opportunities on HS2, providing thousands of businesses and their employees with guaranteed incomes, and helping the country’s economic recovery in these uncertain times.”

The first stretch of the railway, between London and Birmingham, is not expected to be completed until 2029 at the earliest.

Phase 2, which will create a 'Y-shape' linking Birmingham to Manchester and to Leeds, might not be finished until 2040.

The steel industry needs a boost
(Image: Media Wales)

While it is unclear how much of the £12bn worth of deals relate to steel, documents show the 'Contractor’s Procurement Packages' include tenders for “structural steel” and “reinforcement” products, including steel.

Campaigners urged ministers to back British industry when negotiating deals.

GMB union national officer Eamon O'Hearn said: "These orders come at a critical time for the future of the steel industry.

The Mirror has been campaigning to Save Our Steel since 2015

"Public investment in HS2 must support jobs here in the UK, and there are widespread fears that these contracts could go overseas.

"Ministers and civil servants should now get on with awarding these contracts to domestic suppliers.

"Thousands of skilled jobs are at stake, and the workforce stands ready to meet HS2's steel requirement right here in the UK."

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, who is secretary of Parliament's cross-party group on steel and metal-related industries, and whose Aberavon constituency includes Britain's biggest steelworks, Port Talbot, said: “It is vitally important that HS2 delivers a good return on the vast investment that taxpayers are making in it.

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock

He represents Aberavon, which includes the Port Talbot steelworks
(Image: Jonathan Myers)

“In order for this to be possible, it must be underpinned by our UK steel industry.

“Our British steel companies must therefore be given all the information they need so they are fully prepared to bid for and win HS2 contracts when they’re put out to tender.”

Community steelworkers' union operations director Alasdair McDiarmid said: “It’s important the Government and HS2 get this right and deliver on the Prime Minister’s promise that UK steel producers will be first in line for HS2 contracts.

“This means taking decisive action to ensure our domestic producers are able to bid for every steel supply opportunity that arises right throughout the HS2 supply chain.
“We know UK steel producers can make more than 90% of the steel requirement for HS2.

“Contracts cannot be awarded on the basis of costs alone and the social and environment impacts of procuring steel from UK producers must be properly taken into consideration.

“Buying Britain’s steel would support thousands of jobs and livelihoods as well as benefit our economy and provide value to the taxpayer.”

The Mirror has been campaigning to Save Our Steel since 2015 when the industry was hammered by plant closures and thousands of job losses.

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