HSRG RIA Supplier Survey Findings

4 May 2021

In March 2021, the High Speed Rail Group (HSRG) and Railway Industry Association (RIA) created and issued a joint survey to SMEs in the rail supply chain, inviting them to share their opinions and expectations of HS2.

This survey was divided into two branches, one for HS2 suppliers and one for non-HS2 suppliers. Suppliers were asked about how they expected HS2 to impact their businesses regarding turnover, staffing, and skills. Non-suppliers were asked about any barriers faced to applying for HS2 contracts, the expected impact on their business should they win a contract, and opinions on the Eastern Leg.

This survey was open for around one month, during which time there were 113 responses from SMEs, including businesses both in the HS2 supply chain (61 responses) and outside (52 responses) across the UK.

The key findings include:

  1. Overwhelmingly, respondents were positive about the impact of HS2 on their businesses, with 63% of suppliers saying that they have experienced an increase in turnover as a result of their work on the project. In terms of staffing, 61.5% have taken on more staff and 38.5% have hired more apprentices due to the work on the project, with 69.2% investing more in the skills of their workforce.
  2. Expectations among suppliers for HS2 are very high, with 82.7% expecting to see growth in their company as a direct consequence, compared to just 13.5% who do not. Significantly, beyond expecting growth, a huge 96.1% explicitly believe that HS2 will be very or somewhat important for the future of their company. Only two respondents from all suppliers said that it was neither important nor unimportant, and none said that it was unimportant.
  3. On the Eastern Leg, suppliers by a wide margin anticipated a negative impact to their business should the Government cancel the West Midlands to Leeds portion of the route, 76.9% to 19.2%. Asked about how specifically it would impact them, 80.5% of respondents expect reduced revenue projections, 46.3% would downsize staff levels, and even 19.5% would consider moving to other markets.
  4. Over two thirds (67.2%) of respondents said that they hoped to win a contract to work on the Eastern Leg of HS2
  5. Non-HS2 suppliers had primarily not bid for HS2 contracts, with 65.6% not having done so compared with only 27.9% who had. The reasons for this were extremely varied, although many said that contracts for their sector were not yet available. Otherwise, responses included not being large enough to fulfil any of the contracts, or not understanding the process.
  6. More than half of non-suppliers who responded said that they faced barriers to becoming a supplier for HS2, 54.1% to 36.1%. This includes 18% who found the application process to be confusing, and 18% who felt unable to meet the specifications of the contract. Other individual responses included a number of mentions of poor visibility for contracts out to tender.
  7. Despite barriers, 83.6% intend to bid for HS2 contracts in the future, with respondents saying that winning a contract would boost turnover (88.5%), they could hire more staff (82%), invest more in the skills of their workforce (62.3%) and hire more apprentices (57.4%).
  8. Non-HS2 suppliers were just as optimistic as suppliers about the importance of winning an HS2 contract to the future of their company, with 90.2% saying that doing so it very important or somewhat important.


The Findings

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