YORK’S bid to host the national high speed rail college will be “the best offer on the table” thanks to the city’s “critical mass” of industry experts.

The organisations behind York’s bid have spoken of their confidence in the city being the ideal location for the proposed £20 million college, which will train up to 2,000 engineering apprentices for high speed rail projects.

The bid, which earmarks brownfield land owned by Network Rail as the proposed site for the college, highlights York as the central location of an already existing regional rail cluster, which makes up 14 per cent of the UK’s rail industry, employs more than 9,500 people, boasts more than 180 years of pioneering rail innovation, and incorporates 13 rail education providers.

York’s bid has been submitted by Network Rail in partnership with City of York Council and the National Railway Museum.

Phil Verster, route managing director of Network Rail, said: “York is an important, vibrant and growing rail city. There are already more than 5,500 railway people working here, both in train operations and the extensive and diverse supply chain for the industry.

“The bid to bring the college to the city is a strong one based upon the city’s rail links and the land development opportunities at the York Central site.”

York’s bid argues that rooting the college in York will “rebalance the economy” bringing benefits to the North and North East, which otherwise will feel little gain from the HS2 project until 2032.

Barry Dodd, chairman of the York, North Yorkshire & East Riding Enterprise Partnership, said: “In the UK we so often disperse things around.

“York is the only place that can provide the benefit of a critical mass which boasts investment and expertise.

“It is the best offer on the table in providing that entire, value for money package.”

York’s bid has received backing from more than 60 businesses in the North and North East’s rail industry.

Neil Ferguson, director of York-based Ecado, which provides design training to rail companies, said: “I’m confident that York would be the perfect location for the HS2 training college.

“There’s a long and successful history behind York’s rail industry where virtually all the main engineering companies have local offices hosting talented and innovative project teams.

“A training college that can tap into all that local expertise and experience and provide opportunities to the young students at the many outstanding schools within the area would be best placed for developing and delivering the huge amount of talent that will be required to for this vital project.”

The bids will be assessed against seven criteria: links to employers delivering to the rail industry, links with other providers, ease of access for students, how far it supports the HS2 objective to rebalance the economy, size and availability of a suitable site, and affordability and value for money support of partner bodies.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is expected to make an decision on the chosen location in June, with the college to open in 2017.

How the competition shapes up

THE following towns and cities are believed to have also submitted bids for the national high speed rail college:

• Derby - More than half of national employment in the manufacture of rolling stock is in the East Midlands and two-thirds of this is within Derby. In addition, the proposed Infrastructure Maintenance Depot at Staveley could provide some 200-250 jobs in an area where there are existing rail engineering firms with established links.

• Crewe - Manchester Metropolitan University has earmarked land at its Crewe campus for the HS2 Rail College. South Cheshire College and Reaseheath College, near Nantwich, are also partners in the bid and would deliver some of the training at their campuses.

MMU already has experience of educating students for the rail industry as it has a partnership with Virgin Trains.

• Doncaster - The Doncaster borough has been put forward by the Sheffield City Region. In Doncaster 3,000 people are employed directly in national and international rail companies.

There are 15 major rail companies with operations in Doncaster with a further 197 engineering companies based within the area. World famous locomotives Flying Scotsman, Sir Nigel Gresley’ and Mallard among hundreds of locomotives were built at Doncaster.

• Birmingham - A consortium of colleges from Birmingham, Staffordshire and Worcestershire are bidding for the college.

The nine colleges in the consortium want it to be sited alongside a planned HS2 maintenance depot on the former LGV plant in Washwood Heath, Birmingham.

• Stafford - Civic leaders in Staffordshire have earmarked the Staffordshire University campus as an ideal location. The town’s biggest private sector employer Alstom, one of the world’s leading high speed rail firms, has backed the bid.

• Milton Keynes - The city argues it has the transport catapult, Network Rail has a base there and it has one of the oldest railway factories at Wolverton.