A NEW campaign is being launched today to back the bid to bring the national railway college for the HS2 project to York.

The On Track for York campaign by The Press aims to help bring up to 2,000 apprenticeship opportunities to the city.

The Government is planning a High Speed Rail College and city leaders yesterday announced an official bid will be submitted to bring it to York. The bid is being submitted as part of an application by the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership.

Within that application, City of York Council, Network Rail and the National Railway Museum will outline the case for York to host the college at York Central.

Kersten England, chief executive of City of York Council, said: “We believe York would be the ideal location for the High Speed College. York has the largest rail-related workforce of any city in the UK.

“ All aspects of the rail industry are here: from Network Rail who provide the track infrastructure, to major train operators like East Coast and Northern Rail, railway engineering companies such as Omnicom and research and training provision through the Rail Apprentice Academy and shared rail safety institute between the University of York and Nanjing University.

“York is also the location of the NRM the largest railway museum in the world, located on York Central which would be our preferred site.

“The location of York on the East Coast Mainline, Transpennine and on the HS2 route makes York one of the most connected cities in the north making us very accessible to the skilled workforce and students the college will require.”

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills is consulting on the college location, inviting bids by April 30.

In a joint statement, Darren Richardson, the council’s director of city and environmental services; Paul Kirkman, director of the National Railway Museum and Stephen Hind, route enhancement manager at Network Rail, said: “York has a ready supply of apprentices at all HS2 requirement levels through its college and university network, which includes a catchment of 22,000 students.

“Working with our city region colleagues we can confidently demonstrate the ability to provide and train a new workforce in a place where we not only have a strong story of rail heritage, but a dynamic future.

“Bringing this to York is a natural fit, in terms of a well established, strong and growing operational, technical and educational rail industry offer.

After the consultation, the Government will publish a summary of responses, then a decision will be made in June. The proposed college will be open by 2017.

Rail support

THE On Track for York campaign aims to highlight York’s fight to host the HS2 Rail College.

The Press is officially backing the bid and gathering support to showcase a collective determination on behalf of the city to further enhance its impressive and historic status in the rail industry.

The campaign will support the bid by highlighting how York can successfully meet the criteria set out by Government, and will go above and beyond ticking the boxes of the application process.

As part of ‘On Track for York’, we will be launching a petition to showcase the strength of feeling towards hosting the college and the benefits it will bring, including access to hundreds of jobs for rail apprentices, the economic impact and the opportunity for development.

Late starter

GIVEN the importance York was to play in the railway industry, the city was a late starter.

The world’s first public steam railway was the Stockton and Darlington, which opened in 1825, and others quickly followed, but it wasn’t until 1839 that York got its first station: a temporary affair on Queen Street, opened by the York and North Midland Railway.

York’s position half way between London and Edinburgh meant it was always going to be an important station, however.

Within a couple of years, the original station was superseded by a more substantial one, at the site now housing the city council headquarters.

But it wasn’t long before that, too, was outgrown.

By the 1850s, 13 trains a day ran between York and London, carrying 341,000 passengers a year and, in 1877, our current station opened.

York’s carriageworks were an equally important part of the city’s railway history. Originally based in Queen Street, by 1864 these were producing 100 wagons a week. In 1880-81, the North Eastern Railway opened a new works at Holgate.

By the mid 1900s, when coachbuilding in York was at its height, the area now known as York Central was a hive of activity, with carriageworks, maintenance sheds and depots, marshalling yards and sidings. In the 1950s, more than 3,000 people worked at the York Carriageworks alone.

That side of York’s history came to a jarring end in 1996 when the carriageworks, then owned by ABB, closed. They were reopened by American firm Thrall Europa in 1997, but closed again in 2002.

In 2010 there was a further blow, when maintenance giant Jarvis collapsed amid financial crisis.

But with East Coast, the Yorkshire Rail Academy and the National Railway Museum all still based here, York’s importance as a railway city remains intact.

Backing for campaign

BUSINESS leaders and organisations jumped aboard the On Track for York campaign.

Suzanne Burnett, president of York & North Yorkshire chamber of commerce said: “York has a long and proud history of association with the rail industry which has helped create, grow and sustain industry and tourism.

“This region is well placed to host a HS2 college. York already has many of the building blocks to ensure the institution is successful, including a supply of well-qualified young people and proximity to existing rail employers and infrastructure developers.”

Denise Morrison, assistant principal for employer engagement at York College, which runs the Yorkshire Rail Academy with the NRM, said: “York has a history in the railways and it would be great for young people to gain skills and employment opportunities as part of this exciting new initiative.”

York Outer MP Julian Sturdy said: “York has to be the perfect location given its rail heritage and history but more importantly the existing rail engineering skills.”

Barry Dodd, chairman of the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said he supported a Yorkshire bid and said he would encourage a York bid given its rail history and strength.

Bid criteria

THE college is described as “an elite institution, focused on designing and delivering the high level skills need for high speed rail and other major engineering projects of the future”.

Bidders must show:

• Ability to establish links with employers delivering to the rail industry locally

• Ability to establish links with other providers locally

• Ease of access for students

• Supports for the objective for HS2 to rebalance the economy

• Suitable and available site n Affordability and value for money

• Support of partner bodies

The Government says the proposed college is “an integral part”

of its strategy for delivering a national high speed rail network.

HS2 is to be delivered in two phases. The first will be from London to Birmingham, and the second from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester.

Construction on Phase One is due from 2017 to 2025. The full HS2 network is expected to be operational by 2032.

York will be connected to the line via a spur joining the London to Leeds route.