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by Elizabeth Maidment, final year Civil Engineering student

I was recently able to attend a Beale Lecture given by Francis Budge Civil Engineering alumnus who discussed his work and other innovative projects in Hong Kong and provided an insight into his experience living there. The much-anticipated lecture did not fail to impress and was particularly interesting to me, as I have just finished my year in industry working on High Speed 2 (HS2). The project Francis focused on was the new high-speed train dubbed ‘The Vibrant Express’. It travels up to 300km/per hour and connects to the existing network of high-speed trains across China – the largest network in the world – ensuring efficient travel for commuters. From Beijing to Hong Kong train journeys used to take 24 hours, but now they are drastically reduced to just 8 hours and 45 minutes. The timescales for the completion of the project were impressive, to say the least. It took just over 8 years to build and cost $11 billion including bridges and a great deal of tunnelling. Francis credits how fast they were able to finish these projects to the budget.

Francis Budge giving a lecture on his work experience in Hong Kong

Francis spoke about the various opportunities for graduates who potentially wish to work in Hong Kong. Not only would graduates be able to work on these impressive projects but would be paid at a similar rate to that of the UK. However, when you gain more experience and become a Chartered member of the ICE, your pay increases greatly with the annual salary around £60,000 and a capped tax rate of only 15%. These figures are extremely attractive and considering how poignant the projects are, there was more than just a little bit of excitement in the lecture hall.

The culture in Hong Kong was best described as a cross between Chinese and European. Francis explained that English is the language of business in the country, making it particularly easy for students and professionals to make the move. The city itself is very metropolitan with plenty of restaurants from around the world and a high standard for food, which is a great incentive for the foodie in me to explore it. Francis also noted how easy it is to obtain working visas as the country is very open to immigration especially when it comes to the construction industry due to their fast-moving developments.

Overall, the lecture was extremely useful as it gave a great insight into what life could be like if you took the plunge and immigrated to Hong Kong. In the next year, I will be traveling for a year making my way to Hong Kong and traveling to Beijing using the Vibrant Express which I am extremely excited to experience. It is definitely a place I would consider to work in particularly while I am young. I believe many of the students were inspired by the lecture, especially with the current state of affairs. The uncertainty of Brexit, the value of the pound declining while China’s economy continues to grow is a strong incentive to work abroad. I am sure we will have more alumni over the next 5-10 years living in Hong Kong and I hope to be one of them.