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Examination of Witnesses

Part of High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 11th July 2013.

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Terry Morgan: You are quite right. We took some learning from the Olympic Delivery Authority, which had a similar ambition but did not put that into the contract with its providers, and that made the delivery of the ambition more difficult. In other words, contractors committed, but if they did not have a commercial obligation, they still felt that they had choice. When they have choice, you often find that the commitments that you want them to fulfil, around what I would describe as the soft subjects, are sometimes lost. We on Crossrail—I am certain that it is the case on HS2 as well—have always felt that, given the scale of what we are trying to do, there is obviously the importance of delivering the programme, but there is also a question of legacy. That is why we have built a skills academy in east London, on the border between Ilford and Newham, and our contractors are under a commercial, contractual obligation to deliver apprenticeships for every £3 million, or recruit somebody who is currently unemployed.

The words are there, but how do you then do it? We think it is important that we built a skills academy. We said that we would have 400 apprentices; we are now at 230 and the number seems to grow every week, so we are very confident that we are going to get over the 400 apprenticeships mark in that process. The thing we have learned, though, is that there is more you can do with people who are currently unemployed, so we have been running pre-employment programmes. Some of it is very simple: how do you get people up to the idea of getting out of the house and turning up for work at the same time each day, and not having a choice about it? It is very simple, but people lose that sort of habit. At the same time, if people have some vocational skills, how can we enhance them? I am a great advocate for it, because we have taken 1,000 people through that programme so far, and 500 have got jobs on Crossrail. We are great advocates for this, but never doubt that unless you make it a commercial obligation, in my experience contractors will find ways to avoid it. You have to have a determination from the beginning that this is part of the legacy.

I emphasise that our skills academy is not badged Crossrail; it is legacy. If you were ever to go there, when you are inside there you will see Crossrail, but my ambition for it is that the next phase will be Thames tideway, which will need the same skills and I want them to use that academy. They are part of my advisory board. Because of the increased tunnelling that is coming through, HS2 are also starting to show some interest, so I will be encouraging them to participate in the skills academy that we built, which is the first in the world.