Eurostar arrives in Birmingham as the National College for High Speed Rail prepares to open its doors
On the day that students across the West Midlands received their A-Level results, the region was greeted by a symbol of the region’s future employment prospects with the delivery of a newly refurbished Eurostar power car – the latest arrival at Birmingham’s new world-class further education institution, the National College for High Speed Rail.
The 25-tonne power car, which was previously used to whisk more than 160 million passengers from London to Paris and Brussels at speeds of more than 180mph, has been generously donated to the college by Alstom and Eurostar after being retired from service. The train will now have a new lease of life in Birmingham by playing a critical role in educating Britain’s next generation of engineers.
The power car – part of the classic original e300/ Class 373, or Trans Manche Super Train which were originally built in Birmingham, France and Belgium – arrived on the back of a low loader truck and was winched into place on a 700-metre length of rail track which had previously been donated to the college by British Steel.
To prepare for its arrival at the college, the power car has undergone extensive refurbishment by Alstom which has included an overhaul to its original livery to incorporate the colourful branding of the National College for High Speed Rail – the largest of five new national colleges created by the Government to ensure British workers can learn world-class skills.
In addition to the delivery of the power car, the National College for High Speed Rail in Birmingham has also received a bogie – the wheel set for a carriage – donated by Lucchini Unipart Rail Limited. Businesses Van Elle and Rhomberg Sersa were instrumental in providing and arranging the transportation of this piece of equipment.
As an employer-led college, the National College for High Speed Rail is dedicated to solving the engineering, design, planning, manufacturing and construction skills gap that Britain faces as it looks to invest billions of pounds in modernising Britain’s rail network and wider transport infrastructure.
The college will play a key role in generating the workforce of the future who will design and build the UK’s new high-speed rail network and future infrastructure projects and has already created the UK’s first Certificate of Higher Education (CHE) in High Speed Rail and Infrastructure, which people in the West Midlands can now apply for.
As the home to one of the college’s two campuses, Birmingham and the West Midlands is uniquely placed at the heart of the national HS2 network, and economic growth agenda. The Midlands HS2 Growth Strategy – adopted by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) with support from central Government and HS2 Ltd – is set to generate an additional £14 billion to the UK economy (gross value added). It will also deliver 104,000 jobs; 2,000 apprenticeships; an increase in skills; additional support for local businesses; and improved accessibility with over two million people connected to the two world-class HS2 station sites in central Birmingham and Solihull.
The newly refurbished power car will be used as part of the National college’s wider education programme as learners get to grips with a range of engineering specialisms from rolling stock, to track systems and power.
The college is using the space inside the new power car as a virtual / augmented reality classroom, which will incorporate the use of Virtual Reality (VR) headsets. Initially, learners at the college will be able to experience an interactive 3D recreation of the existing Eurostar cab configuration. They will be able to virtually drive the train and make use of various digital screens which will use leap motion tracking.
A 3D high speed pantograph (the device that conveys electric current to a train) will also allow learners to interact with it via hand tracking and animation techniques like Tom Cruise in the film Minority Report, so they can understand how it works and how it is constructed. The college will continue to develop this interactive content for learners which will be used in other VR environments throughout the building.
Clair Mowbray, chief executive for the National College for High Speed Rail, said: “This latest addition to our Birmingham campus has arrived just as learners across the region are processing their A-level results. For those who are currently looking at clearing options or haven’t yet decided their next steps, the new power car is symbolic of the smart alternative that the college offers to university; an opportunity to forge an exciting career in creating Britain’s 21st Century rail network.
“The best way to educate Britain’s future engineers and provide the world-class skills needed to reduce the national skills shortage, is to grant learners access to the kind of apparatus they will become familiar with when they go out to work for businesses in the field. The new power car will be used as a classroom and is also going to incorporate a virtual reality set-up, so that we can respond to industry needs and project different engineering configurations within the cabin.
“For those who are interested in the college, a limited number of places still remain available for our courses beginning in September. There will be a clearing event held at our Birmingham campus from 2-4pm on Thursday 24 August and we’re encouraging local residents to get on board.
“We’re extremely grateful for all the employer-led support that the college has received to date, and especially to Alstom and Eurostar for this generous donation.”
Cllr Brett O’Reilly, cabinet member for jobs and skills at Birmingham City Council, said: “It is great to see the Eurostar engine here in Birmingham, as it is a great addition to the college where rail engineers of the future will be trained. I have always said that HS2 is not only about a quick link to London, but about creating jobs and training opportunities here in Birmingham and the wider region, and this is another example of the long-term economic benefits. The National College for High Speed Rail is a great opportunity for young people looking for a career path into a rewarding and well paid job in an expanding sector.”
Jason Baldock, HS2 Director at Alstom UK & Ireland, said: “It’s a proud moment for all of us today as the UK’s first very high speed train arrives in Birmingham with its stunning new livery. When we first built these iconic trains in Birmingham, France and Belgium, we knew they would be a success, but nobody imagined they would have an inspiring legacy like this after retirement, supporting the next generation of UK rail engineers.
“Alstom are huge supporters of the National College for High Speed Rail and the great work they are doing here and in Doncaster. We will be continuing to work closely with them as we open our complementary rail academy in Widnes in September. It’s an exciting time for the industry.”
Philippe Mouly, chief operating officer at Eurostar, said: “We are very pleased that the power cars of two of our original Eurostar trains will play a key role in developing the skills and expertise of the rail engineers of the future. These iconic high-speed trains were ground-breaking and have transformed travel between the UK and mainland Europe”.
Andrew Cleaves, Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) Lead Board Director for Employment and Skills, said: “The National College for High Speed Rail will be a real game-changer for local people, which is why the LEP is proud to be investing £7.5 million into this vital project. The new college, a stone’s throw away from Curzon Street station, will play a vital role in addressing skills shortages in the engineering sector, whilst creating pathways into learning and employment for local people in the High Speed Rail industry. This college is part of a wider strategy to up-skill local people and, in turn, deliver economic benefit for the region and allow us to compete on a global scale.”
The National College for High Speed Rail has two campuses, in Doncaster and Birmingham, and will open in September. Next week, the Birmingham campus of the National College for High Speed Rail will host a clearing day on Thursday 24 August from 2-4pm for prospective students, with a limited number of places to fill for September 2017. To find out more about the college and the courses that are available, click here.