The head of one of the companies behind the construction of the controversial High Speed 2 (HS2) has criticised the new rail line’s marketing campaign.
Mark Reynolds, Chief Executive of consultancy and construction company Mace, believes the public are being fed the wrong type of information. He argued that instead of focusing on speed, marketing officials should highlight the positives in terms of increased capacity and heightened connectivity.
“It’s being sold wrongly; it should be being promoted as being about adding capacity, not speed,” he said.
The Department for Transport has said that the HS2 project will cut the journey time between London and Birmingham by 30 minutes to just 50 minutes. This, it said, will be achieved by using a fleet of trains which can reach speeds of more than 200 mph. It added that it anticipates increased capacity on services since more people will be inclined to use the faster trains.
Last week the search for a company to design, build and maintain these hi-speed trains was launched by the organisation responsible for developing the project, HS2 Ltd. Up to 60 trains will be needed, with the £2.75 billion contract due to be awarded in 2019.
The project – which will cost £55.7 billion – has been heavily criticised, but Mr Reynolds believes that it is an exciting prospect.
“HS2 is right in that it is a visionary thing,” he explained.
“The government’s Northern Powerhouse strategy identifies that we have a divided Britain and the industrial strategy can make Britain more inclusive, but we need the infrastructure to bring all these regions and cities together.”
He added that the scheme – one of the most expensive ever attempted by a British government in peace-time – could signal a positive new era in the wake of Brexit. “[The referendum] has put a mirror to our face as a country and made us see that we have problems as a nation.
“However, Brexit gives us the opportunity to develop the strategies we need to tackle those problems and the push to get ahead of other nations with similar issues,” he said.
Mace, which has 5,000 staff around the world, was instrumental in the delivery of a number of high profile infrastructure projects in the UK. It was involved in the construction of the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, the Shard in central London and work at the London Olympics.
Mr Reynolds believes that these projects, among others, show that infrastructure goals in the UK can be met successfully and that the country should display greater ambition in the future. “It’s great that the government is looking to the future but the horizon is too short,” he said. “We need to be planning 50 years ahead, not five, and have real vision.”