Northern Ireland firms bid for a slice of £10bn HS2 train project
Northern Ireland's top engineering and construction firms are in the frame for contracts worth £10bn to help build the HS2 railway, providing "a welcome benefit" to the industry and economy.
The massive HS2, bringing a high-speed train link between London and Birmingham and on to Manchester, will be one of the biggest ever transport projects undertaken in the UK.
And at an event yesterday, firms here were asked to bid for valuable work contracts for phase one of the project, with work due to start in 2017 - aiming to create up to 15,000 construction jobs UK-wide. It's the biggest project for UK engineering and construction firms since London 2012.
John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation, said the huge scheme could yield "further opportunities to help expand their workloads and grow their workforce" in Northern Ireland.
"The 'meet the buyer' event is testament to the significant success story that is the local construction industry's ability to successfully deliver major infrastructure projects across the UK and beyond," he said.
Northern Ireland's largest civil engineering business, Lagan Construction Group, is understood to be "following and pursuing" opportunities with the ambitious rail scheme. The family-owned business worked on a bridge between the Olympic Park and the main stadium for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
"The HS2 scheme, much like the 2012 Olympics before it, as well as other major road, retail and hospitality projects, presents Northern Irish firms with yet further opportunities to help expand their workloads and grow their workforce," Mr Armstrong said.
"In addition, the progress of the HS2 scheme nationally will hopefully provide an additional welcome benefit for the industry and economy locally."
The project's commercial director, Beth West, was in Belfast yesterday alongside Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell to launch the scheme.
"Building HS2 is a massive long-term project, one that offers a huge opportunity for Northern Ireland companies to bid for billions of pounds worth of contracts to deliver HS2, which will boost jobs and skills across Northern Ireland," she said.
"I'm extremely pleased that so many local firms have already shown an interest and I'd like to encourage all Northern Ireland businesses, large or small, to get involved with HS2."
The Government gave the go-ahead for a UK High Speed Rail network in January 2012.
Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell said: "Northern Ireland companies have already shown, through London 2012, that they have the skills required to build first-class infrastructure. Events such as this have previously been highly successful."
Meanwhile, Adrian Eakin, head of law firm Pinsent Masons' UK infrastructure and projects concessions team, said it was "excited to service the many opportunities presented as this landmark project progresses".
"HS2 is an infrastructure project that will transform those cities it serves. With infrastructure being one of our four global sectors, Pinsent Masons is already providing advice to a wide range of interests affected by HS2."