Industry experts have declared they are “disappointed” that French-made steel is being used for the UK’s rail project HS2
The high-speed railway service project – one of the nation's most expensive infrastructure programmes to date – will connect London with the Midlands, North England and Scotland, and has been touted as an opportunity to invest in UK industries.
Questions over the metal sourcing came after it emerged that French firm, Sendin, had supplied the project with more than 2,000 tonnes of steel, which will be used to create ventilation shafts on the project’s Chiltern tunnel.
According to British Association of Reinforcement chairman Stephen Elliott, the move has “undermined” commitments to the UK steel industry.
Elliot said: “HS2 is a major UK project being paid for by the UK public. It is, therefore, disappointing that HS2 is not ready to fully support the UK steel industry. We had hoped major projects would work with, and not undermine, the UK steel industry.”
News that the country’s largest infrastructure project since WWII is not using all-UK steel has drawn criticism and calls for procurement rules to be toughened up to favour UK suppliers, which have hit hard times in recent years.
It came after UK manufacturer Liberty Steel asked the government for a bailout of £170m following the collapse of its key financial backer Greensill Capital.
Further commentators argue that panels supplied by Sendin have not been certified to a UK-approved fabrication process, despite HS2 specifications requiring such approvals.
UK Steel director general, Gareth Stace, said: “It is hugely disappointing to see HS2 failing to take the most basic step of using steel made to British standards.”
He said the practice is “universal” across the UK and the project would have “almost had to go out of its way” not to use British standard steel.
“In doing so, HS2 has missed a vital opportunity to support UK jobs and economic growth through its spending of taxpayer’s money. If all the steel was sourced from the UK it would support an additional 14,000 UK jobs and create £4.3bn of UK economic activity,” he added.
“With such huge potential to support UK recovery, it is essential that public projects start to think carefully about where they buy their steel, purchasing on a strategic basis that supports wider government social objectives.”
However, a HS2 spokesperson insisted the total amount of steel supplied by Sendin has accounted for less than 5% of the project’s total rebar. They claimed all UK steel suppliers were approached, but Sendin was the only company that could provide the materials required “in time” without causing more delays.
The HS2 spokesperson said: “The original supplier of this steel reinforcement was UK-based but this supplier was unable to maintain the agreed programme, forcing potential delays and therefore higher costs on the project.
“Our contractor approached all suitable alternative UK suppliers, but none could provide the necessary product in time.
“The French fabricator, Sendin, is an internationally renowned supplier in this market that had previously held full UK certification and is in the process of being re-certified. HS2 continues to work with UK Steel to provide updates on opportunities and broker relationships between its members and the HS2 supply chain.”
HS2 said 97% of all businesses the project has worked with throughout its supply chains are British.