How HS2 Is Laying The Tracks For Expansion In Kent

24th January 2019
Paul Brooks

It’s been a well-documented initiative, and as one of the UK’s largest ever infrastructure projects, HS2 isn’t just set to dramatically improve our public transport system – it’s already having a very tangible impact on many businesses in Kent.

HS2 are actively seeking to support and enlist SMEs and local businesses in and around the areas in which construction work is taking place. The supply chain for this project is vast, and includes everything from large format printing to catering; it’s inspiring and reaffirming to see such a positive impact already taking place, and the many benefits businesses in Kent are already reaping.

At PressOn, our contract with HS2 has already allowed us to reinvest and expand our machinery and team – we’re printing and installing the hoarding graphics for HS2, and it’s exciting to see both how the project develops, and how other businesses are getting involved. We decided to take a closer look at what it means to be ‘On Board’ with this exciting project…

What is HS2?

The HS2 project has been making national headlines since it was confirmed by the Secretary of State in 2012. This new train line aims to extend the impact of the original ‘High Speed 1’ (HS1) line between London and the Channel Tunnel, which itself has already had a measured impact on the Kent economy.

Linking Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham to London via new high speed lines, this extensive new track will effectively connect the North with the South. Connections to existing rail lines will extend all the way up to Scotland, making it easier and faster to traverse the country than ever before.

Comprising over 340 miles of track, HS2 is quite the feat of construction – and it’s unsurprising that this scale of infrastructure expansion requires the involvement of a lot of contractors, suppliers, and specialists. With every aspect of the project requiring a significant amount of professional input – from product design and manufacture to hospitality arrangements – what’s particularly positive is how HS2 have approached contracting the required works…

Bringing SMEs ‘On Board’

Rather than outsourcing to a cohort of large international enterprises, HS2 have elected to put the contracts for the extensive supply chain for this project out to tender, encouraging SMEs to pitch their involvement, and awarding contracts to businesses throughout the UK.

This is being done through a number of platforms, which can all be accessed from their supply chain page. What’s particularly exciting is not only that the contracts for the work on all the different aspects of HS2 are available for tender, but there is also a platform for businesses in their supply chain to promote details of ‘indirect’ contracts available as a result of their involvement.

This is having a big impact on businesses in Kent – over thirty companies and SMEs are already working on the project, which is allowing them to invest in their own growth, expansion, and ongoing success.

Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2, pointed out “There will be thousands of opportunities on offer, and now is the time for businesses in the region to get involved. We’re looking for everything from engineering to catering services, designers to ecologists, and concrete to electronic components. It is not just about track and trains.”

PressOn and HS2

Mr Thurston’s comments are spot on, and the work PressOn have been completing for HS2 as a part of our contract goes a long way to supporting this perspective. The HS2 project calls for a large and ever-increasing amount of construction work, which in turn means a huge number of construction hoarding panels (the wooden barriers around a site) are required.

Rather than leave these panels blank (and in doing so miss out on a fantastic opportunity for community engagement and brand endorsement), HS2 have contracted PressOn to print and install custom graphics on the panels at their sites on the ‘Phase One’ section of the track. The designs vary for each site, and we’ve had the pleasure of printing over 1000 metres of hoardings so far.

Keeping the Conversation Moving

It’s notable and commendable that HS2 is not only taking steps to involve SMEs such as PressOn, but actively demonstrating their interest and investment in these businesses in a variety of other ways. HS2 have been proactive in demonstrating their support of their partners, taking part in numerous forums, round tables, and site visits.

In November 2018, for example, PressOn hosted Mark Thurston, James Richardson and Tim Burr of Costain Group, and Jo James – director of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce – for a round table discussion on the impact of HS2 and other infrastructure projects such as these on local communities and businesses.

Discussions like these are so important in ensuring we’re always pushing for progression in our local – and national – economy. Maintaining positive and open discussion between companies and individuals at every stage of the supply chain – from individual SMEs to local Councils – is crucial to guarantee continued success and growth in these challenging times.

Aside from this, it’s also worth noting the ‘snowball effect’ these kind of projects, meetings, and broader attitudes can generate. The networking opportunities from projects such as these are vast, and it’s exciting to discover who else comes ‘#OnBoard’ with HS2 as the works continue. We look forward to continued prosperity both for PressOn, HS2, and all the other Kent and national businesses involved.

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