In September the Government announced that the high-speed rail college will be co-located in Birmingham and Doncaster. Work is now under way with the local authorities concerned to get the college up and running. Our goal is for students to be admitted in the academic year 2017-18, which incidentally will coincide with the start of construction.
HS2 is already engaging with schools and colleges. For example, in November it attended the Skills Show for the first time. We need 10,000 people in engineering just to cope with the demand for skills in the existing rail investment strategy, and we need another 25,000 to deliver HS2.
It is all very well helping young people with the HS2 skills academy, but it will be on the backs of the people whose properties are blighted by the project. The Minister need only read Melissa Kite’s moving article in The Spectator on the plight of her elderly parents. There is still no final compensation package, after five years, and HS2 officials are trying to beat home owners down on the independent valuations of their properties. It is shaming that we have still not settled compensation matters after five years. When is the Minister going to sort out this shambles?
The need-to-sell scheme will be operating in the new year, and we are currently consulting on it. I must point out that part of the skills agenda is investment in skills for tunnelling. We are engaging in unprecedented levels of tunnelling to limit environmental impacts. The skills college will be a hub-and-spoke arrangement, and we are looking for colleges that can teach environmental skills to engage with it so that we can deliver on our promise of no net biodiversity loss.