As well as building Britain’s new low-carbon, high-speed railway, it’s also important that HS2 Ltd attracts a diverse range of people to help deliver Europe’s largest infrastructure project. As a result, we want our workforce to represent the diverse communities along our line of route and the future generations the railway will serve once operational.

With our four core values – Integrity, Leadership, Respect and Safety – diversity spans across all that we do at HS2. Furthermore, our CEO, Mark Thurston has made diversity and inclusion a personal commitment as we collectively strive to leave a stronger and more representative workforce for the next generation, capable of delivering the UK’s future pipeline of infrastructure projects.

Earlier this year we became the only organisation in the UK to have achieved the Clear Assured Platinum Standard accreditation. We received the award in recognition of our commitment to embedding inclusive best practice into all elements of its work, including the design and delivery of the new railway.

Underpinning much of this activity is Onboard, our employee network for LGBTQ+ people and Allies. The network aspires to be an exemplar network for both our own employees and supply chain partners, and also demonstrates how we’re being a good neighbour in the communities we work in.

Onboard has helped to update policies and documents to make HS2 Ltd more inclusive. Changes it has made as a result include a more comprehensive trans inclusion policy and gender-neutral toilets. This approach is being applied to support future generations as we design our infrastructure and rolling stock.

Onboard also collaborates closely with a range of other employee engagement groups, including HS2’s own Gender Balance, BAME and 2Gether Disability Networks, as well as equivalent associations within our supply chain.

An example of this collaboration is the recently launched HS2 Allies Programme. The programme is shared by all the Networks and each group runs a session for HS2 employees – including our Executive team and Board – on how to be an Ally both in and out of the workplace.

However, we’re certainly not complacent as an organisation and there is always more that we can do, including the challenge to embed our same level of commitment across the thousands of companies that make up our UK supply chain. In fact, later this year we will be publishing the LGBTQ+ diversity of our supply chain – thought to be an industry first – and it will be one of the best benchmarks of LGBTQ+ inclusion in construction.

From a personal point of view, being part of Onboard is intrinsic to my experience as an out gay employee at HS2 Ltd. From social, networking and learning opportunities to policy and monitoring, Onboard makes me feel valued and visible in the same breath – which is a great feeling. A particular highlight was getting to represent HS2 Ltd at Birmingham Pride in 2019 together with Building Equality, an alliance of construction organisations and professionals working together to drive LGBTQ+ inclusion in the construction sector.

Alongside our workforce and its legacy, what we deliver for LGBTQ+ communities is just as crucial as our industry commitments. We have collectively gone above and beyond mandatory regulatory obligations in setting new standards, using focus groups, workshops, panels, and soundboards to understand what inclusive design means for those with protected characteristics.

Over the next few years, as our stations start to take shape and our track gets laid along the length of the country, our design vision will become even more apparent to our future passengers. Together, we will prepare to experience a railway network that offers greater choice, reliability and improved accessibility, and this is something we can all be proud of.