UK’s HS2 project continues to lead the way on EDI


Landmark UK rail mega-project leads by example on equality, diversity and inclusion.

HS2’s recently published annual equality, diversity and inclusion report highlights how the company delivering Britain’s new railway is continuing to challenge its national supply chain – and the wider rail engineering and construction sectors – to champion inclusivity.

Across the supply chain, HS2’s performance continues to beat industry averages for the number of female and BAME employees working on the project, with the supply chain achieving 28% and 18% respectively.

With all three phases of the project now live, and HS2’s journey to the north of England beginning, challenge and opportunity come in equal measure. HS2 Ltd has set itself high standards, leading the way in the performance it expects from the 2,500 UK-based businesses engaged in its supply chain. Whilst just below the internal targets it set itself, HS2 Ltd’s own performance saw its female workforce reach 37% [40%], whilst the number of BAME employees peaked at 22% [23%].

Natalie Penrose, head of legacy at HS2, said: “HS2’s construction is gathering pace by the day, and we now have a 25,000-strong workforce spread across more than 350 sites. HS2’s scale brings the reality of our challenge to life, given the white male dominance that has gripped the rail and civil engineering sectors for many years.

“But every challenge brings opportunity and I’m proud of the huge waves we are making to address national skills shortages, the threat of an ageing workforce in engineering and in attracting more women and BAME candidates into employment on the project.”

At the heart of HS2’s drive for change is the growing network of employees who are challenging the organisation to achieve excellence. With a collective membership of over 1,650 across eight bespoke networking groups, staff are empowered to share their experiences and expertise on a range of initiatives from gender balance, the inclusion of ethnic minority staff, challenging homophobia, biphobia and transphobia and promoting disability awareness.

Engaging employees in the strategy, policy and decision-making processes had driven positive change and key achievements during 2021/2022. On International Disabled People’s Day last December, HS2 launched its accessibility policy and digital accessibility hub, which seek to address the changing needs of disabled employees in the workplace and ensure that staff recognise the adjustments they can make to support their colleagues and the wider workforce.

Learning from others remains a key focus for HS2 in the years ahead and the company says it is proud of the partnerships it forming with schools, specialist employment support services and charitable groups along the line of route to help it achieve best practice.

HS2’s work with schools for special educational needs and disabilities and specialist schools for the deaf is also highlighting the design changes that need to be implemented to make HS2 stations and trains accessible for all to truly reflect the diverse needs of the communities it will serve.

Click here to read HS2’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Annual Report 2021-2022.