THE Deputy Prime Minister and economic bodies from across Yorkshire and the North East have backed the bid to put the UK’s high speed rail college in Doncaster.
In his capacity as a Sheffield MP, Nick Clegg has written to his cabinet colleague Vince Cable urging him to choose Doncaster over rival bids from Derby, Manchester and Birmingham.
And in an unprecedented display of unity, six local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) - the bodies which bring councils and business together to grow the local economy - covering Yorkshire and the North-East have also lent their support.
Ministers are expected to make a decision shortly over where the college will be established.
The Government is creating the college to ensure that there are enough young people with the right skills to build the HS2 high speed rail line between London and Yorkshire and future similar projects.
It is also hoped the college will help establish the UK as a world leader in high speed rail technology.
In his letter, Mr Clegg offers his “wholehearted support” for the Doncaster bid, pointing to its railway heritage as the town where the Flying Scotsman and Mallard locomotives were built.
He also highlights Sheffield University’s engineering expertise, the number of leading rail sector companies in the area and its transport connections.
In their letter, the chairmen of the six LEPs describe putting the college in Doncaster as a step towards creating a “northern powerhouse” - a phrase coined by Chancellor George Osborne in a recent speech on rebalancing the UK economy.
They also argue that choosing Doncaster would ensure that the economic impact of the Government’s spending on high speed rail “spreads to northern areas of the country and into local and regional economies beyond the immediate route”.
Ros Jones, Doncaster’s executive mayor, said: “The backing of the LEPs shows the strength of support for locating the high speed rail college in Doncaster.
“It is clear that Yorkshire, the North-East and other towns and cities up and down the UK will benefit and they have publicly endorsed the bid.
“This is an opportunity for the Government to spread the benefit of HS2 and rebalance the economy. Let’s hope they are taking notice.”
Sheffield City Region LEP chairman James Newman welcomed the backing of his counterparts from across Yorkshire and the North-East.
He said: “Doncaster is not only most logical place in the Sheffield City Region to locate the High Speed Rail College, it is the best place in the country.
“The LEP believes that the collective confidence shown by local leaders from across the private and public sectors to bring the main hub to Doncaster will help Government to make the right choice.”
Leeds and York were among towns and cities across the country which entered bids to host the high speed rail college but Doncaster’s was the only one from the region to make the shortlist.
A presentation on the bid’s merits has already been made to Government officials and a final decision is expected to be made very soon.
It is expected that the college will be open by 2017 when work on the first phase of HS2 from London to Birmingham is due to begin.