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Could New Transport Plans Mean An Age Of Steel Buildings?

Steel frame buildings have the attribute of being extremely versatile. They can be used for many purposes, built quickly and, if necessary, disassembled easily too.

They can often be used in construction projects to store machinery, shelter workers and even as an on-site construction facility. An example of the latter was unveiled by HS2 at its Copthall Tunnel site in north-west London in March this year, enabling it to run a rebar manufacturing facility on-site.

That may have helped make the process of establishing the tunnel more efficient and the mega-project will have benefitted from a number of other steel frame buildings being used along the line. But their future use will be restricted by the controversial decision by prime minister Rishi Sunak to cancel the Manchester leg.

His decision, which has divided both the Conservative Party and the country at large, poses the question of what the money saved will be used for.

Stating this amounted to £36 billion, Mr Sunak talked about a new ‘network north’, with various projects ranging from a tram system for Leeds (which was already a manifesto commitment) to rail electrification in north Wales, the restoration of the Don Valley line and upgraded major roads.

There has been some scepticism over some of these announcements; a list that appeared the next day said the Leamside Line in County Durham would be restored only for this to vanish the next day, while suggestions that the Metrolink tram system would be extended to Manchester Airport were countered by the fact that this link has been running since 2014.

Part of the confusion may be that many of the spending decisions will be devolved. It will be for mayoral authorities to make the ultimate decisions about trams in Leeds and Manchester, railways in the Don Valley and - because it won’t just be the north that benefits from the freed-up cash - a metro in Bristol, which may or may not run partly underground.

Indeed, many plans are very well advanced across the country and while the question of whether a metro in Bristol will be a tram, Tube, or hybrid system like the Tyne and Wear Metro, plans for trams in Leeds and the wider West Yorkshire region have been progressing, as have those for extending the Manchester Metrolink and various rail schemes.

Therefore, while there may be some uncertainty as to what the cash will be spent on now Staffordshire and Cheshire will no longer have HS2 construction sites running through them, there may soon be many different places where steel frame buildings are being used for construction schemes.

In the meantime, the freeing up of the land that the Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2 would have been built on could mean all sorts of other developments taking place. That may involve whole new building projects, but in some cases, it could simply revert to agricultural use.

That could mean some steel buildings being erected on the line of the railway that never was for some very different purposes.


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