High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (HSR 106)


The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) was formed in 1996 to provide a single industry voice for civil engineering contractors in the UK. With more than 300 member companies, ranging from the largest international construction companies in the industry to specialist SME suppliers operating at a regional or local level, CECA represents those companies that are involved in the construction and maintenance of the UK's transport and utility networks.

Our members are estimated to deliver between 70 and 80 per cent of the total £20 billion of civil engineering work carried out the UK annually. CECA members will be intimately involved in the delivery of future nationally-significant infrastructure such as the High Speed Rail network, and as such we are keen to work closely with Government to ensure the delivery of future project both on time and to budget.


CECA's stated policy on High Speed Rail, drafted in November 2010 and agreed by the CECA Rail Forum and Transport Committees, is as follows:

"CECA recognises the significant benefits that can be delivered through the introduction of High Speed Rail to some of the UK's largest conurbations."

"Such a network would contribute to growth. In the short term it will provide a stimulus to the construction sector, which represents a significant proportion of the UK's economic output. In the longer term, an operational High Speed Rail system will deliver improved journey times between UK cities, reduce congestion from existing transport networks and encourage the transfer of traffic from road to rail."

"However we are concerned about the business case for High Speed Rail when compared with other forms of transport investment. Current estimates for the London to Birmingham section of HS2 suggest a funding requirement in the order of £11-13 billion. Were the full cost of such a proposal to be drawn from public funding, it is likely that this would lead to shortfalls in other areas of transport funding. As such it is essential that any publically-funded High Speed Rail system first demonstrates that it presents better value-for-money than if they same amount of funding were to be directed towards traditional projects."


CECA is unable to comment on every question the Select Committee on Transport plans to address with regards to High Speed Rail. However, points in response to the questions set CECA wishes to raise are as follows:

For and Against High Speed Rail—CECA believes that the implementation of a High Speed Rail Network would, like other nationally-significant infrastructure projects, act as a key driver to economic growth. The World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report places the overall quality of the UK's railway infrastructure 19th out of 139 competitor countries, and the overall quality of the UK's infrastructure a disappointing 33rd out of 139, despite its status as the world's 6th largest economy.

In the short term, the implementation of High Speed Rail would provide a much-needed boost to the UK's construction sector, which has suffered disproportionately during the economic downturn of the last three years. Furthermore, High Speed Rail will deliver improved journey times between UK cities and reduce congestion on the existing transport network.

However, CECA is concerned that should the funding for High Speed Rail be drawn from the existing transport budget, or from other sources of public funding, this will negatively impact on other sectors of the UK's transport infrastructure that require both continued maintenance and further investment. To detract from existing investment infrastructure for the purpose of building High Speed Rail would be detrimental to the UK's infrastructure as a whole at a time when improving that infrastructure is both stated Government policy and widely acknowledged to be crucial to achieving the economic growth necessary to a secure recovery.

While achieving inter-urban connectivity will have obvious economic benefits, to do so at the expense of other sectors of the transport network, such as the strategic road network, would undermine the Government's strategy of improving UK infrastructure in a holistic manner.

Lessons to Learn from Other Major Transport Projects—It is of vital importance that nationally significant infrastructure projects be implemented in a consistent manner within a suitable time-frame. By their very nature, infrastructure projects involve large-scale works over large geographical areas, and must be implemented over a longer time-frame than other construction projects. It is of vital importance for the successful delivery of major infrastructure projects that there is no unnecessary delay in the commissioning and procurement process, and that civil engineering contractors are enabled to deliver projects free from unnecessary regulations or bureaucracy.

Our organisations long experience in this area provides us with a good understanding of the factors that make the difference between success and failure when it comes to the delivery of major infrastructure projects. Key points to consider include:

—  Visibility—the supply chain must have good visibility and confidence in the forward work programme associated with delivery of the project. By providing this, suppliers can invest in the skills, innovation and equipment that will be required to deliver world class performance on the project. Such visibility will include regular engagement with the supply chain as early plans are developed, to allow industry to challenge assumptions and identify potential risks and conflicts before they have the chance to impact upon the project.

—  Early involvement—Having worked on similar projects, UK suppliers can provide considerable expertise in the development of projects as they move towards delivery on the ground. Early appointment of supply chain teams will help secure the best value solution to each element of the project.

—  Client capability—it is essential that for a project of the scale of High Speed 2, the expectations of the quality of the finished product are matched by the capability of those who will be required to manage delivery of the project. Poor or unclear management represents one of the greatest risk factors for major infrastructure projects.

May 2011

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Prepared 8 November 2011