With a wide range of innovative engineering projects underway or set to be completed in the near future, the engineering sector has emerged as one of the UK and Ireland’s most thriving industries. Despite global challenges affecting the sector, such as skills shortages and supply difficulties, engineering is expected to continue to grow throughout 2023 and beyond. From the Crossrail network to the Greenlink Offshore Interconnector scheme, the UK and Ireland are embarking on ambitious projects to strengthen infrastructure for future generations.
While these important civil engineering projects often experience setbacks due to tight budgets, recruitment issues, or political pushback, they nonetheless showcase the UK and Ireland’s commitment to engineering innovation. In this guide, we’ll take a look at 5 of the most significant engineering projects currently due for completion in the UK and Ireland from 2023 onwards. By exploring the aims, details, and hiring needs for each project, we aim to demonstrate just how crucial large-scale, modern engineering projects are to the UK economy and how they are able to create all manner of job opportunities.
1. Birmingham’s Big City Plan
Birmingham has become one of the UK’s most exciting engineering hubs owing to its Big City Plan. Launched in 2010, Stage 2 of Birmingham’s Big City Plan aims to transform England’s second-biggest city into a world-class destination with first-rate public spaces, infrastructure, and investment opportunities. This ambitious initiative is part of the Birmingham Development Plan 2031, a planning framework that outlines the vision for developing and regenerating the city centre.
Not due for completion until the 2030s, The Big City Plan has already accomplished a range of engineering innovations, such as the Midland Metro Line 1 Extension in 2015, the Library of Birmingham, and the Eastside City Park, the first urban park to be developed in Birmingham since the Victorian era. Among its key aspirations, the plan aims to bolster transport connectivity, build 5,000 new homes, establish seven new quarters of the city, and build 28 kilometres of cycling and pedestrian routes.
Birmingham’s Big City Plan has brought a wealth of investment and enterprise to the city and created a wide variety of sought-after engineer jobs. With the goal of contributing £2.1 billion to the UK economy each year, the scheme is set to create over 50,000 new jobs. As one of the country’s most far-reaching civil engineering projects, Birmingham’s Big City Plan is a prime example of how the engineering sector has managed to emerge as a key contributor to the UK economy.
HS2, also known as High Speed 2, is Europe’s largest infrastructure project and an integral part of Britain’s leveling initiative. A key component of the Government’s plan to make Britain net zero by 2050, this planned high-speed railway is intended to increase rail capacity and provide better connections between the North and South of England. While the first phase (linking London and the West Midlands) is set to be completed between 2029 and 2033, the project as a whole won’t be finished until the at least 2040s.
Though HS2 is Northern England’s biggest rail investment of all time, the project has been the source of much controversy, not least due to its high costs, disruption to local communities, and environmental impact. When the project was introduced back in 2009, the original cost estimate was £37.5 billion, but the spiralling expenses of the intervening years have some experts predicting that the final bill will reach over £100 billion.
Despite the political disquiet associated with HS2, the British government have maintained their commitment to the project, and while the delays have provoked frustration from the public, HS2 has the potential to be a major contributor to the UK economy, stimulating financial growth and a myriad of engineer jobs. According to HS2's official website, the project is already supporting 28,000 jobs, and 3,000 businesses are involved in bringing it to fruition. Given how long HS2 is expected to take, it is likely that the project will continue to create job opportunities for years to come.
3. Hinkley Point C
Another key engineering project vital to the UK’s infrastructure is the construction of Hinkley Point C, a nuclear power station located in Somerset. As Britain’s biggest environmental project, Hinkley Point C is considered pivotal to the UK’s net zero strategy. With two nuclear reactors capable of providing low-carbon electricity to six million homes, the power station will also play a crucial role in creating engineer jobs and driving investment in the South West of England.
In an era of climate change caused by carbon emissions and wars fought over energy, the UK government recognises the need to strengthen their energy security strategy. That need is the driving factor behind their decision to fund Hinkley Point C. Following official approval from the government, construction courtesy of French state-owned energy company EDF began in 2017 and is scheduled for completion by the mid-2020s. When it is operational, Hinkley Point C is expected to produce 7% of the country’s energy supply, a relatively high amount that will help the country reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.
Not only does Hinkley Point C have the potential to revolutionise the UK’s energy usage, but the project has also provided an array of employment opportunities for high-quality engineering talent and the local community. Although the project is not yet finished, it has already placed 22,000 people into jobs and invested £24 million into employment, education, and skills in the area. In addition to engineering jobs, Hinkley Point C employs professionals from the security, healthcare, hospitality, and supply chain sectors.
4. Thames Tideway Tunnel
As one of the UK’s most significant civil engineering projects, the Thames Tideway Tunnel aims to provide London with a state-of-the-art sewerage system that serves the needs of the capital throughout this century and beyond. This scheme is committed to making the River Thames cleaner and healthier by reducing sewage overflows, thereby improving the city’s water supply quality. Construction work on the project began in 2016, and the completion date is set for 2025.
At 25 kilometres long and 66 metres deep, the tunnel promises to bring an array of benefits to the capital, including a reduction in waterborne diseases, far less wildlife-damaging, sewage-related litter, and an economic boost. In a joint collaborative effort, each of the three sections of the tunnel is being built by different construction firms, with big names like Balfour Beatty and Laing O’Rourke involved.
According to a report released in 2023 by Tideway, the company overseeing the project, revealed that the overall cost is £4.5 billion, and 90% of the construction is complete. Like the other engineering projects we discussed in this guide, the Thames Tideway Tunnel scheme has created many job and apprenticeship opportunities. So far, the project has created 4,000 sustainable jobs, with 700 of those roles directly working on building the tunnel.
5. Greenlink Offshore Interconnector
Like the UK, the Republic of Ireland has a growing engineering sector that attracts a broad selection of engineering and technology companies. With world-renowned engineering innovations like the Shannon Hydro Scheme and Dublin Airport’s North Runway, Ireland has carved out an excellent reputation for its expanding range of public and private sector infrastructure schemes.
One such engineering project is the Greenlink Offshore Interconnector, a submarine power cable capable of transmitting renewable energy between County Wexford in Ireland and Pembrokeshire in Wales. This underground electricity interconnector is planned for commissioning in 2024 and has been labelled one of Europe’s most significant energy infrastructure projects. It is particularly advantageous for Ireland’s energy security ambitions, as it provides a natural link to Nordic and EU electricity via the UK.
Designed to power 380,000 homes, the Greenlink Offshore Interconnector has the potential to greatly support Ireland and the UK in their efforts to achieve a secure and sustainable energy infrastructure. Not only does the project have a positive environmental impact, but it has also created a variety of construction and operation jobs and attracted €500 million in capital investment for both Ireland and Wales.
Final Thoughts on the UK and Ireland’s Top Engineering Projects
The UK and Ireland's engineering sectors are thriving with a dynamic range of ambitious projects that exemplify innovation and dedication to shaping a sustainable future. From Birmingham's Big City Plan to the Greenlink Offshore Interconnector, these projects stand as testaments to the transformative power of engineering.
Despite setbacks, tight budgets, and political issues, these engineering innovations demonstrate the commitment of both nations to pioneering infrastructure and driving economic growth. The socio-economic impact of these projects resonates far beyond their physical infrastructure, inspiring future generations to pursue excellence in engineering and contribute to a brighter future.
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