Express & Star

Building trade facing struggle as HS2 'creaming off' materials

The lack of building materials has reached crisis levels in the West Midlands – because they are being "creamed off" by HS2.


The high speed rail project is said to be one of the reasons for the shortage as it is sucking up supplies that would normally be bought up by other building trades.

Clients of Hudson Contract say a struggle to buy up adequate stocks has now overtaken the skills shortage as the number one risk to the recovery of the construction industry nationally.

The group is the UK’s largest provider of tax status and employment contract services to the sector and supplies more than 2,500 construction companies across England and Wales.

Hudson said the materials problem was most acute in the West Midlands, where there is significant housebuilding activity and major infrastructure projects in Birmingham, including new stations for high speed rail and facilities for the Commonwealth Games in 2022. Work is also underway on the HS2 line in Staffordshire, close to the border with Shropshire.


Ian Anfield, managing director, said: “Our clients are reporting serious shortages in construction products on the ground. In the West Midlands, some are saying their projects are now on 'tick over’ because materials are being creamed off by HS2.

“The Government is proceeding with mega-projects and pushing forward shovel-ready schemes to ‘build back better’, the housing market is overheated due to the stamp duty holiday and demand for lumber is soaring around the world.

“Clients are telling us the materials crisis is outstripping the skills shortage as the main threat to their growth prospects.”

Mr Anfield called for more help to support local contractors at a time when big infrastructure projects are seen as a way to kick-start the post-Covid economy.

He said: “We need radical solutions to address these problems, starting with a drive to promote local and regional supply chains in procurement.

“This will benefit our domestic manufacturing industries for steel and construction products and create skilled jobs in left-behind communities across the country."

He added; “At the moment, the UK is simply outsourcing carbon emissions to other parts of the world and this over-reliance on imports has made us hostage to events beyond our control.

“Local authorities should ditch large framework agreements with the main contractors and implement ‘buy local’ policies to build up local businesses and their suppliers.

“And instead of vilifying the self-employed, the construction industry establishment should champion these small-business owners as they are most likely to spend money in their local areas and generate meaningful training opportunities for young people.”

Hudson’s latest pay trends survey shows self-employed tradespeople have enjoyed their best month for earnings since the start of the pandemic.