College head in call for railway revolution to transform North
The National College of High Speed Rail is set to open in the Yorkshire town that lays claim to building some of the world’s most famous locomotives. Nina Swift reports.
A REVOLUTION in rail travel must become a reality to transform the North’s crumbling transport infrastructure and ensure a new generation of highly skilled engineers is capitalised on fully, the chief executive of the first college of its kind has warned.
Clair Mowbray, from the National College for High Speed Rail, says it is vital that the region benefits from HS2 amid fears the proposed eastern leg of the project, from Birmingham to Leeds, Sheffield and York, could fail to materialise. Her warning comes as the first students prepare to walk through the doors of Doncaster’s new £25m engineering and technology facility on September 27.
Mrs Mowbray said: “I think HS2 is really vital for transport and infrastructure so people who are living in the North have the chance to access all of the jobs and opportunities available across the national sectors.”
However, she stressed that while HS2 provided a catalyst to create a “new type of education provision” focused on training people to move into jobs, there were “huge amounts” going on in the wider sector where skills were needed. She said: “We will be focused on making sure skills are transferable across different types of transport and infrastructure development.
“Young people who come with new ideas can innovate and think about how we can use technology and digital means to improve transport systems. I think as a result the college will help to transform transport in the North. But it has to take greater strides towards innovation rather than incremental change.
“My ambition for this college is for it to be the industry and be for the industry, not just something that becomes a white elephant.”
Transport Minister Andrew Jones added: “The fact the college is located in the North makes it impossible to ignore it as a centre of excellence in this field.”
IT IS the epitome of 21st-century rail providing a stark contrast to Doncaster’s long and proud history with the industry.
The complicated and often dirty work that created some of the world’s most famous steam engines has now been transposed with a state-of-theart national college to train the next generation of rail engineers.
The first students are set to arrive at the end of this month, and excitement is starting to build as the dream to transform not only education but transport in the North edges closer to reality.
“What we have to recognise is the innovation created here will lead to the transformation of the sector. There isn’t any other industry-focused college or institution in further education that exists in the UK or worldwide in the same way as what we have got here,” Clair Mowbray, the CEO of the National College for High Speed Rail, told The Yorkshire Post.
“We are trying to create new innovation and demonstrate what the future of the rail industry is going to look like.”
At first glance, the futuristic £25m college, which has already won a number of awards for its state-of-the-art design and has a sister campus in Birmingham, is undoubtedly striking.
Encased in glass, the building boasts 76,000 sq ft of multifunction teaching space, including ‘zones’ and ‘pods’, complimented by the latest cutting-edge digital technology.
At its heart lies a vast workshop, which can be seen from almost every part of the college to allow learners to become fully immersed in their trade. Here students can work on a Eurostar power car, which once carried more than 160 million passengers between the UK and mainland Europe.
And steps down to an illuminated trench beneath the 25-tonne car allow trainee engineers to work on the engine’s underbelly. In the coming weeks a virtual-reality driver’s cab will be installed at the front end of the car to demonstrate a signalling set-up. The technology will also feature within the train’s main body.
Towards the end of the year, a Peagase French high-speed rail train will also join the power car, along with a Trimble trolley, which is a track-measuring device, and railway lifting equipment.
Step outside and students can get to work on a 700m length of rail track and a complete set of overhead powerlines, which will increase in height.
“The whole idea is both the exterior and interior can be teaching environments,” said Mrs Mowbray.
“We have also got a bottom cross-section of a carriage coming from HS2, as well as a tunnel cross-section, a mini station and a footbridge, which will all be built out of new materials just coming into the industry to demonstrate how to utilise different types.
“The equipment has been donated by businesses which have bought into the concept of what our national college is about. They recognise the college will get them the workforce they need to make their companies successful.”
In fact, donations of specialist kit and equipment to the college from Alstom, British Steel, Trimble, Rhomberg Sersa and Siemens, among many others, have amounted to a value of more than £5m, highlighting the mass support of the sector.
This can be put down to the college being dedicated to plugging the engineering, design, planning, manufacturing and construction skills gap in the industry. It is hoped that it will play a key role in generating the workforce of the future, who will design and build the UK’s new HS2 high-speed rail network and future rail projects. There is a particular drive to attract more women into a sector where only four per cent of the workforce is female.
And with the UK’s first ever Certificate of Higher Education in High Speed Rail and Infrastructure on offer, as well as a bursary scheme and a number of different apprenticeship opportunities, it’s easy to see why interest is piquing.
Mrs Mowbray said: “A lot of people think it’s all about train and the track rather than seeing all of the component parts. They think it’s a manual labourintensive job, but with digital technology coming in now, that is going to revolutionise the rail systems. There will be power and rolling stock as expected, but also the digital railway, such as signalling and remote asset monitoring. There will be an HS2 design studio here. So there is education based around design and creativity. We need programming and design skills rather than just an engineer with a spanner in hand.”
They recognise the college will get them the workforce they need. Clair Mowbray, CEO of the National College for High Speed Rail
The £25m National College for High Speed Rail in Doncaster will train the next generation of rail engineers; its CEO Clair Mowbray said they were ‘trying to create new innovation and demonstrate what the future of the rail industry is going to look like’. DREAM BECOMES REALITY: