Engineers have warned the government that it risks damaging the UK construction industry by courting Chinese investment into High Speed 2 related projects.
Chancellor George Osborne yesterday launched procurement for up to £11.8bn of HS2 civil engineering projects while in Chengdu.
He also outlined £24bn of investment opportunities in the North of England, including developments at Leeds South Bank and Manchester Place, where HS2 stations are planned.
Association for Consultancy and Engineering chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin welcomed the HS2 contracts but warned of the dangers of linking foreign investment to the project.
“We would emphasise to the chancellor the strategically significant nature of this project and [that] in his rush to secure foreign investment, he risks undermining the ability of UK firms to benefit from the work,” said Ogunshakin.
“We must ensure that UK engineering companies do not miss out on what would be an outstanding opportunity to develop the skills of its workforce, increase their expertise, and export what they have learnt to the global market. This will be more difficult to accomplish if a deal was struck to tie foreign investment to the delivery of the project.”
A spokesman for project promoter HS2 insisted the investment opportunities and the construction contracts were entirely separate.
“We are not seeking Chinese money to build HS2,” he said. “We are interested in expertise and open to bids from companies all over the world.”
Osborne said yesterday: “I’m here in China today opening the bidding process for construction contracts worth £11.8bn, which will propel HS2 forward.
“We are truly entering a golden era of cooperation between our two countries, and it’s crucial that businesses and communities from across the UK feel the full benefit of forging closer economic links with China.”