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.

Yorkshire Post - - FRONT PAGE - NINA SWIFT ED­U­CA­TION COR­RE­SPON­DENT Email: nina.swift@jpress.co.uk Twit­ter: @Ni­naSwift

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

PIC­TURES: SCOTT MERRYLEES.

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:

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