High tech face of Doncaster high speed rail college revealed
It is the cutting edge face of education in Doncaster in the 21st century - and in just a few days,Â the first students will be coming through its doors.
Wednesday will mark the first day in the life of the National College for High Speed Rail - the institution which plans to transform training in the rail sector for the next generation of engineers.
Doncaster made its name as a centre of rail engineering, with its workshops producing iconic steam engines like Mallard and Flying Scotsman in the 20th century. Now bosses want to bring a new generation in the the rail technology of the 21st century.
Clair Mowbray, the chief executive of the National College for High Speed Rail, says the first intake of 50 students will arrive on Wednesday, But that number will have grown to a total of 1,200 students using the facility by 2022.
And when they arrive, they will find a college for removed from the traditional image of rail engineering as oily workshops.
The rail courses that the students arriving on Wednesday will find will be a high technology world which will see them using state of the art technology to design components and buildings, alongside hands on skills such as fitting out locos and working on track.
There will be three intakes of students a year, and other students will come in from other organisations. Courses will include time spend working in the industry, and rail firms will be involved in teaching. The one-year course has been specially created.
Much of the equipment in the college, gear worth around Â£5 million, has been donated from industry, including a Eurostar locomotive situated in one of the main engineering rooms, visible from almost every area in the Â£25m college building. Inside it is virtual reality technology which will be used by students to design components. They will then be able to create the component with a 3D printer and find out if it works.
The classrooms will have similar hi-tech computer equipment.
Students will also be able to work on the structure of the loco itself for their engineering training, and there is an access trench below to allow work on its underside.
Outside the iconic college building, located at Lakeside, is a stretch of high speed railway track, which will allow students to get hands on with the nuts and bolts of trackwork and the realities of working trackside.
The building is also geared up to work with a diverse intake of students. The plan is to create a diverse workforce, attracted both male and female students in what has traditionally been a male dominated industry, with only four per cent of the workforce female at present.
The male and female changing rooms, for students to use after they have finished working on the engines, are the same size as one another, reflecting the commitment to bringing in diversity.
Ms Mowbray said: "This building is going to be buzzing. The Eurostar power car is the first piece of the jigsaw, and the rest of the kit is on its way.
"This college is providing a brand new environment and it is about showcasing our rail industry. It is a very open design to create a clean environment, and create behaviours to keep it clean. What you see here I think is what people would think of as advanced manufacturing, and not what you would traditionally consider the rail industry to be.
"There is some work that is trackside, but we need to stop seeing the rail industry as just about the track. We need to see the digital side, signalling, design work and how we can use data to give better passenger experience . It is so much greater than a train and a bit of track."
She said she could see elements of the course appealing to video gamers, with some of the design software used working in a similar way to the computer game Minecraft.
The college is a national college and will take students from all across the country, and there are plans in place to build student accommodation for those from further away. But the college plans to make sure it always gets 50 per cent of its learners from South Yorkshire. There are bursaries available to pay for students from Doncaster.
Ms Mowbray said: "I think for the Doncaster area, it is a really exciting development, opening up a fantastic opportunity for people in Doncaster to develop new skills for the jobs that are going to be created in high speed rail. It would be great to see Doncaster beingthe transport centric place it always was, and the front runners in the talent pool.
"There are a lot of people with a family history in the rail industry in Doncsater.
"To carry that on for a new generation is fantastic."