Call for action to ensure more use of UK steel in HS2 project

Union leaders have accused the Government of failing to ensure UK steel is used in the HS2 rail project.

Monday, 3rd January 2022, 12:01 am

The claim follows parliamentary questions over measures the Department for Transport has taken to use British steel. A number of steel manufacturers are based in Sheffield and Rotherham.

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The union Unite, which represents thousands of steelworkers, says HS2 is the largest construction project in Europe and will need millions of tonnes of steel, but wants more done to ensure British steel is used.

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Tour of Tata Steel in Rotherham and Stocksbridge to view the high standard of steel produced those sites. Picture Scott Merrylees. Unions want measures to make sure more UK steel is used in HS2

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The government must immediately develop clear targets on UK steel usage on publicly funded construction projects. In the case of HS2, UK producers should have a paramount place in producing steel for the project. Surely that is economic common sense?”

Unite says this is a particularly critical time for the UK steel industry with order books not being full and the rising energy costs in danger of making UK steel uneconomic to produce.

Unite national officer for steel Harish Patel said: “Steel is a key foundation industry and it is absolutely essential that it receives practical support from the government. That should start with ensuring that government funded projects always purchase UK steel whenever possible.

“It brings into question yet again whether the government is really serious about levelling up or if it is simply a soundbite.”

Liberty Speciality Steels, Stocksbridge. Unions want action to ensure more UK steel is used in building HS2. Picture: Chris Etchells

Labour MP Mick Whitley submitted a question to transport secretary Grant Shapps asking whether his department had targets for the use of UK steel on HS2.

Junior minister Andrew Stephenson MP replied: “There is no formal target for the use of UK steel on HS2.

A further question by Mr Whitely asked: “What proportion of steel used in the construction of HS2 was produced in the UK as of 30 November 2021.”

19 July 2016 ...Tour of Tata Steel in Rotherham and Stocksbridge to view the high standard of steel produced those sites. Picture Scott Merrylees

Mr Stephenson said: “HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport are committed to working with the UK steel industry to ensure it is engaged, informed and prepared to seize the contract opportunities that will be generated by HS2.”

Unite claims UK steel producers have raised concerns that they that there is little or no effective effort being made to ensure that the contractors who are engaged to build HS2, buy UK steel, resulting in much being bought from overseas.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “HS2 is a once-in-a-generation investment in the UK’s transport infrastructure and we expect it to have a lasting impact on jobs, skills and businesses here in the UK.

“The Government and HS2 Ltd have engaged extensively with the British steel industry over the last five years to ensure that it is in the best possible position to compete for contracts.”