High speed for diversity

HS2 wants to take the lead in the industry on diversity issues.

Mark Lomas, head of equality, diversity and inclusion at HS2 Ltd, highlights how his organisation is addressing diversity issues in their business.

HS2 can play a key role in mainstreaming equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the infrastructure sector. 

EDI is an important part of our procurement process which reflects the HS2 values and our ambition to be catalyst for growth.

Encouraging innovation and change, supporting good practice and fostering collaboration will all be important aspects of HS2 delivering wide ranging benefits for UK plc. Through our approach to procurement, our commitment to education, training and skills development, and the ability to design our rolling stock to maximise accessibility and inclusion we have the opportunity to be a catalyst for change in the sector. Maximising opportunities for communities and businesses across the UK will play an important role in HS2 bringing growth and opportunity along the line of route.

Equality, diversity and inclusion presents a solution to issues which threaten the sustainability of the infrastructure sector. In particular, a focus on EDI is the best solution currently to issue of replenishing the talent pool. Our focus on EDI goes hand in hand with our commitment to education, skills and training and is an area where HS2 Ltd wants to demonstrate significant positive impact over the life-cycle of the project. 

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring new people into our sector and improve levels of education and training. The opportunity is huge, and to deliver our ambitions we will need to work closely with our supply chain. In order to maximise the potential benefits of HS2 we will be taking a supportive role with our major contractors, encouraging improvement in practices and equality outcomes, supporting innovative approaches and providing fora where exchanges of best practice and lessons learned are a key feature of supply chain collaboration. 

We recognise that a large percentage of our supply chain will be SMEs and we aware of the need to support this cohort with access to information, best practice tools, case studies and advice on building business capacity. Although we are in the early in stages of defining our support for SMEs in our supply chain we are currently using supplier events and other engagement opportunities to find out what our SMEs will require and how we can deliver this to them in the best way possible, avoiding duplication of current resources and providing meaningful opportunities for capacity building. Partnerships and collaboration will be a key part of achieving our aims and we are in the process of actively identifying organisations that can work with HS2 to support SMEs in our supply chain.

One of the most exciting areas of work is our focus on Inclusive Design. This is an area where HS2 can make a huge step change in the accessibility of services and crucially the ability to use accessible services independently. Innovative plans for maximising the accessibility features of our rolling stock are underway and where required, we are taking a leadership position in lobbying the EU around standards which may affect our commitment to accessible and inclusive rail services such as the issue of level platform access.

We realise that improving EDI performance is a journey and that organisations have varying levels of maturity and sophistication at this point in time. HS2 will support our supply chain to undertake that journey and are committed to ensuring we realise the benefits that improved EDI outcomes will provide. As a young organisation, HS2 Ltd will be undertaking that journey with our supply chain which is why we see collaboration as such an important part of our overall approach to EDI.

Our EDI goals are about achieving change. We cannot achieve that alone. Mainstreaming EDI will mean we have achieved that change together. Collectively, I believe we can do that.

It might be nice to write this article again in ten years’ time and hopefully I can argue at that point that EDI has been become the mainstream throughout the infrastructure sector and that HS2 played an important role in facilitating the change.