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HS2 under fire for buying French steel

·2-min read

HS2 is facing a backlash from the steel industry after a non-UK approved company from France was handed a crucial contract to prop up the train line's tunnels.

Industry leaders said they were “concerned and disappointed” at the decision to award a French fabricator, Sendin, with the contract to provide steel panelling for HS2’s tunnels.

The materials will not be made through a UK-approved process. French standards do not meet those required in Britain. Sendin also does not hold the necessary UK accreditation to provide the materials.

Stephen Elliott, chairman of the British Association of Reinforcement, 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 that UK major projects would work with, and not undermine, the UK steel industry.”

HS2 selected the French company after a contract with a UK supplier fell through.

A spokesman for HS2 said no British company was able to deliver the contract without resulting in delays and costing taxpayers more money.

Sendin is in the process of re-applying to UK authorities to gain the necessary accreditation.

However, the UK Steel director-general, Gareth Stace, said the news was no surprise for British steel makers.

"UK Steel has long called for it to be compulsory for all those purchasing steel to report origin and for all steel requirements to be set out in UK standards not EU ones. This is a textbook example and underlines the need for a rethink of steel procurement practices,” he said.

Boris Johnson last year promised to do “absolutely everything we can” to ensure UK steel companies were “at the front of the queue for the great projects we are going to construct”.

The British Constructional Steelwork Association previously called on ministers to commit to 90pc of the estimated 400,000 tonnes of structural steelwork needed by HS2 to be UK sourced.

Its chief executive, David Moore, said: “There’s plenty of competition in terms of steel contractors who have the right capability in the UK.

A spokesman for HS2 said: “The original supplier of this steel reinforcement was UK-based, however 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.

“They were able to respond quickly, allowing the project to stay on schedule. HS2 Ltd continues to work with UK Steel to provide updates on opportunities and broker relationships between its members and the HS2 supply chain.”

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