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Business & Economy

Business leaders hear how HS2 could help level up the North East

The boss of the UK’s largest infrastructure programme has told North East business leaders how it could help level up the region.

Allan Cook is the chair of HS2, the coveted high speed rail connection being rolled out nationwide over the next decade.

He spoke to members of the North East England Chamber of Commerce about the substantial opportunities available within the project and encouraged local companies to tender for them.

Allan was born in Sunderland and started his career 45 years ago as an apprentice electrician. Now, he supports the HS2 delivery team on the construction of the £40 billion first phase from London to the West Midlands.

Allan said: “In my role I often quote the Duke of Wellington who said the business of life is to find out what you don’t know by what you do know.

“In effect he was saying you need to try and see what is over the other side of the hill.

“At present, we are being tested to the limit with uncertainties and trying to see over the hill in the transport sector.

“There are challenges, but one thing is for sure, I’m certain we need HS2 more than ever, to increase our connectivity and capacity and also to help reduce our carbon footprint.”

It is estimated that at the peak of HS2 construction works in 2023/4 around 30,000 jobs will be created.

Allan added: “HS2 will not just create jobs it will be creating careers.

“We will employ a whole range of people that you might not expect including archaeologists and chemical engineers.

“There will also be employment boosts in over 400k supply chain opportunities.  This programme of work is going to have a positive impact well into the next generation.”

Darlington-based Cleveland Bridge is already delivering part of HS2’s infrastructure and Allan hopes more North East firms will follow suit.

Marianne O Sullivan, Chamber policy adviser who specialises in transport, said: “We are extremely grateful Allan Cook spent time explaining the challenges and substantial opportunities for our members through the HS2 project.

“North East businesses are only too aware of the need to upgrade the rail network, so it becomes more reliable and gives our region the first class connectivity so urgently required.

“Being able to compete for work on the programme is a substantial bonus.”

The Chamber President’s Club is supported by Learning Curve Group and the webinar was sponsored by Archers Law.