Doncaster rail college set to take big step forward

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PLANS to create the first national college dedicated to educating the next generation of rail engineers in Yorkshire looks set to take a major step forward next week.

Doncaster councillors will be asked to approve the authority’s involvement in the project after the town was chosen by the Government to jointly host the High Speed Rail College with Birmingham last year.

Councillors are also expected to give the go-ahead for authority-owned land at Carolina Way to be used for the college.

The report says: “This decision is huge for Doncaster, the Sheffield city region and the north of England.

“The decision to have one, split site college, located in both Doncaster and Birmingham means Doncaster now has a permanent relationship with Birmingham, a major city, bolstering Doncaster’s links outside of the Sheffield city region.

“This approach also provides Government with a potential model for delivery of future key economic policies.

“The college will represent one of the largest investments in Doncaster in many years and can become a nucleus for attracting further rail related investment in Doncaster.”

The report, to be considered by Doncaster Council’s cabinet next week, says the land at Carolina Way, valued at around £1.5 million will be provided either on a long-term lease or as a gift.

While this will mean the council is handing over land “at less than best consideration”, the report says, “this is off-set by the significant benefits a national rail college will bring for Doncaster”.

The council will also be responsible for managing the construction of the college although the estimated £30 million cost of the building will not come from the authority’s budget.

The report reveals that details of the college’s curriculim could be agreed by March of this year with the hunt for a contractor getting underway in June or July.

The college is expected to open its doors to students for the first time in September 2017.

The report also reveals that the council is giving “serious consideration” to developing a university technical college in the town.

University technical colleges are schools for children aged from 14 to 18 focused on engineering and technical skills. One is already open in Sheffield and another is planned in Leeds.

A recent study showed there are currently 600 apprentice engineers a year in the rail industry when there is a need for 1,000 a year even before work begins on the high speed rail project.

The Yorkshire Post revealed last week that proposals for a rail engineering academy for Doncaster were among bids submitted from the region seeking a share of money from the Government’s Local Growth Fund.

If successful, the academy is likely to share the same building in Doncaster as the High Speed Rail College and be known as the Centre for Rail Engineering and Technical Excellence.

The college will be discussed by councillors on Wednesday.