Doncaster’s tradition as a railway town is powering into the future after it was selected for a £30 million High Speed Rail College.
The town which built the Flying Scotsman and the Mallard – the fastest steam train ever – is set to turn out hundreds of rail engineers needed for the £42.6 billion HS2 line.
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The ‘Y’ shaped route from London to Leeds and Manchester has yet to be finalised and no date has been given for whether a station will be built at Meadowhall or Sheffield Victoria.
But the college, set to open in 2017, is the first concrete sign that HS2 is happening – and offers a taste of the potential benefits.
Council chiefs in Doncaster believe it will eventually be worth more than £150m to the local economy as local rail businesses expand and others move in. Some 200 companies employing 6,000 people work in the sector already,
Doncaster beat off competition from York and Leeds, Derby and Manchester with a bid put together by business leaders and council chiefs. A second college will be built in Birmingham.
Mayor Ros Jones said the decision confirmed Doncaster’s claim to be the home of rail.
She added: “I am delighted. Doncaster has always led the way in terms of cutting edge rail engineering.
“Bringing a national engineering college to Doncaster will be a game changer for the town and the Sheffield City Region, complementing the plans we have implemented to grow our thriving rail and engineering sector. It will offer local people, including our school leavers, the chance to gain high-level engineering skills leading to well-paid jobs that are in high demand.”
The Government says HS2 will create up to 2,000 apprenticeships and employ 25,000 people during construction. The line itself could lead to an additional 400,000 jobs, it is claimed.
Secretary of State for Business Vince Cable said: “This process has demonstrated a real commitment from all parts of the country to the development of a cutting-edge training facility and a rail workforce which is the best in the world.
“The opening of this college demonstrates that the UK is advancing as a global leader in rail manufacturing. This is the next step in building the highly skilled specialist workforce needed to develop the biggest infrastructure project this country has ever seen, and to enable our rail industry to compete in future global markets.”
Few bids can have had such backing
Cross party, across industry, academia and the public sector and across the country, people told the Government it had to be Doncaster.
The application was put together by a business-led group with the backing of Doncaster Council.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg declared his ‘wholehearted support’, as did Doncaster MPs Rosie Winterton, Caroline Flint and Ed Miliband.
York and Leeds threw their weight behind Doncaster after they failed to make the shortlist.
Everyone from Scottish councillors to Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce - and several universities - contacted the Government to support the move.
James Newman, chairman of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The new HS2 College is good news for jobs, skills and economic growth in Doncaster and the Sheffield City Region.
“The bid brought together local leaders from across the private and public sectors to make the strongest case possible for the college to be located in Doncaster. Together with strong support from all the other LEPs in Yorkshire and the North East, this played a major part in persuading Government to locate the college in the North.
“Sheffield City Region has all the elements needed to make the flagship HS2 College a great success, including a reputation and heritage in rail engineering, its location on the East Coast Mainline, an exceptional engineering business base and world-class further and higher education providers.”
Phil Harris, Doncaster Chamber chief executive, said: “We secured the support of all the Chambers of Commerce in Yorkshire and the Humber, the North East and Cambridgeshire – a network that represents around 15,000 businesses. On behalf of all those Chambers and businesses I can say that we are delighted by this announcement.”
The home of rail
Legendary locomotives were designed, built and maintained in Doncaster bolstering its claim as ‘the home of rail’.
The Flying Scotsman, built in 1923, was the first steam locomotive to hit 100mph.
The even faster Mallard was completed at the Plant Works in 1938 and still holds the world speed record of 126mph.
Sir Nigel Gresley was the rail engineer behind Flying Scotsman, Mallard and many other famous locomotives to have rolled out of its engine sheds.
The rail college will be built on a 5.1 acre site in Doncaster’s Lakeside, within walking distance of household names in the rail industry like DB Schenker, Volker Rail and Hitachi offering easy access for employers and students from across the UK.
126 mph steam train speed record
250mph HS2 train
200 rail companies in Doncaster
6,000 rail workers in Doncaster
2,000 apprentices through the college
£150m benefit to local economy
£42.6bn total HS2 cost