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Today’s news that Chancellor George Osborne is talking to the Chinese about investing in Hs2 has provoked the usual howls of outrage & borderline racism from those opposed to Hs2.

If you listened to them you’d think the Chinese were busy preparing an armada of ships loaded to the Gunwhales with coolies, bags of cement & rails – ready to set sail for the UK. On arrival they’d set up navvy camps like the Victorian railway builders of old, frightening the locals & laying waste to the countryside as they went.

Of course the truth is far more prosaic.

Osborne is after Chinese financial, not physical muscle (or bags of cement).

That said, the Chinese do have technical skills to offer too. After all, they’ve been building stuff around the world for quite some time now – including over 17,000km of high-speed railways in China itself. So, what could the Chinese offer? Well, they could become the financial backers of Joint Venture (JV) teams who are providing the skills to build Hs2, or Chinese firms could join some of those JVs. It’s also possible (but unlikely) that a purely Chinese JV could bid.

Many people don’t appreciate how international major civil engineering projects are nowadays – depending on the skills required. When High Speed 1 was being built some of the construction camps resembled the United Nations. One camp that was primarily involved in tunneling had a large contingent of Japanese. Why? because the Japanese had the best tunneling expertise! In contrast the UK has sent many skilled engineers abroad to build other people’s railways due to a lack of work in the UK. So, what comes around goes around.

You’ll find a more objective look at what bidding for contracts means from Construction Enquirer.

Still, why let the facts get in the way of hysteria & a bit of good old fashioned xenophobia eh?

For those confused by this blogs title, it refers to an excellent 1966 film about the hysteria caused in a small American town when a Russian submarine runs aground. It was directed by Norman Jewison. Anyone who has seen it will understand why it’s rather appropriate.