Hopes that a new multi-million pound college to train a generation of world-class engineers will come to Birmingham have received a boost after Ministers announced the city’s bid had made it to the shortlist.
Birmingham City Council and the local economic development agency hope the city will become the home of the National College for High Speed Rail, a £20 million college to train the engineers needed to build the £50 billion high speed line known as HS2.
Ministers have now announced that four locations have made it to a shortlist of bids - Birmingham, Derby, Doncaster and Manchester.
Birmingham submitted a number of potential options for the college, but the site favoured by Ministers is at Eastside Locks, in the city’s university quarter, not far from the planned high speed rail station at Curzon Street.
Trade union Unite is also planning to build a training centre in the area.
Other possible sites are Birmingham Science Park in Aston, Riverside in Perry Barr and Jennens Road in Eastside.
The city’s bid is backed by almost 60 businesses involved in rail and construction as well as nine Further Education colleges and all the city’s universities.
It has been co-ordinated by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and is also backed by neighbouring Black Country LEP.
Responding to the news, Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore said: “Birmingham is at the centre of the high-speed network and has strong academic credentials, including a world-class university, and would be the perfect home for a specialist engineering college.
“We are already working with HS2, the GBSLEP and colleges and universities to make sure the city and wider region benefits from the high speed line with job and training opportunities. This means having the right workforce with the right skills at the right time and ensuring we create opportunities for local companies and people, particularly from areas of the city with the highest levels of unemployment.”
Greater Birmingham and Solihull Deputy Chair Steve Hollis said: “It is excellent news that our submissions to host the High Speed Rail College in Birmingham have been well received and we have been shortlisted by Government.
“We said at the time that we believe the case we presented for Birmingham in terms of sites, central location, networks to colleges and employers was a compelling one.
“The private sector-led partnership working with the GBSLEP, the nine Greater Birmingham FE Colleges, Universities and Birmingham City Council has, we believe, everything the Government requires to make this project work.
“Preparing for the arrival of HS2 is an important part of our Strategic Economic Plan and the college is a component of this.
“We look forward to working with Government on the next stage of the bid.”
Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock said: “I was extremely encouraged by the level of interest that has been shown by areas across the country in being part of meeting the high speed rail skills challenge.
“We received a number of very strong proposals, and not all can be taken forward to the final stage. However, it is clear that there is already some excellent partnership activity taking place between education providers and the rail industry across the country which is resulting in the delivery of some outstanding provision.”
Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said: “HS2 is a vital part of our long-term economic plan, providing and safeguarding tens of thousands of jobs. The new College will equip the engineers of the future with the skills they need to secure these jobs and similar ones in the UK and across the globe.”
The new college will cost around £20million and will be open by 2017.
MPs considering petitions from organisations and residents demanding changes to the HS2 scheme will come to Birmingham in July for two days of talks with Birmingham City Council and Centro, the West Midlands passenger transport authority.
Both bodies are pushing for HS2 Ltd, the company set up by the Government to oversee construction of the line, to improve proposals for stations at Curzon Street, in the city centre, and in Solihull near Birmingham Airport and the NEC.
Construction of the first phase of the line, from London to Birmingham, is to begin in 2017 and the first high speed trains should be running by 2026.
The £50 billion cost is for the entire network, including a second phase running from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, and includes the cost of trains and contingency funding.