As regular readers will know, I’m determined to bring jobs and economic growth to Doncaster by capitalising on our unique assets. Our economy is too reliant on a diminishing public sector and the retail sector. We need more jobs, particularly skilled jobs paying good wages.
One of our areas of strength is our current railway industry and fantastic railway heritage. Doncaster’s historic plant works designed and built national icons like Mallard and The Flying Scotsman, and the town remains an important UK rail industry centre. We have more than 200 rail and engineering companies, a rail port and a 35-acre rail terminal being developed at the new inland port. Along with our rail training providers, this Doncaster Rail Cluster offers a hub of industry expertise. I would also like to expand railway-related tourism.
This week we submitted a Doncaster-led bid, backed by the Sheffield City Region, to host a new National High Speed Rail College. In order to deliver HS2 and our national railway investment plans, we will need a skilled national workforce. There are years of work available in the railway industry, both in the UK and abroad, and I firmly believe Doncaster is the ideal place for the college to be located.
A national rail college in Doncaster would blend further and higher education to deliver the elite skills that HS2 demands under the direction of local and national employers. We have already identified a potential site, which would be a short walk away from a number of local rail businesses creating a direct link between training providers and industry leaders.
In addition to high level engineering skills, we plan to deliver a rail academy offering a route into the industry from school for local young people. The rail academy would deliver skills at level 2, 3 and 4 with the national college able to train people all the way up to degree level. This would help to deliver real skills, providing well-paid jobs at all levels. What’s more, the rail industry has a fantastic track record working with young people from Doncaster who may not have done well in a school environment, but who are willing to work hard for a decent wage and good training. The plans are being backed by businesses and we have already developed an industry-led Doncaster rail partnership.
The Government’s cuts are hitting Doncaster hard. If we are to take more than our fair share of cuts, as we are, then the Government needs to help us rebalance our local economy. A national high speed rail college would help us to deliver a vibrant rail industry with the potential to grow further and a route into well paid jobs for local people. The case is compelling and I hope we are successful in our bid. Irrespective, we will work together with the railway industry to drive forward our economic plans.
*Ros Jones, Mayor, Doncaster Council