Rail transport manufacturer, Alstom has announced the start of construction work on its new technology centre and training academy in Widnes, North West England.
According to Alstom, the new site will mean £20m investment in the local area and could create upwards of 600 jobs.
Due to open in May 2017, the company is initially expecting to deliver rolling stock maintenance contracts at the facility. Longer-term, it potentially gives Alstom the capacity to build trains in Britain, subject to winning UK rolling stock contracts.
The North West Transport Training Academy is designed to inspire a new generation of engineers and give them the skills needed to lead the UK rail sector in the future, as well as supporting upskilling of the existing workforce.
Rail Minister, Paul Maynard commented: ““We believe Britain can lead the world in the booming global rail industry, but we need a modern, highly skilled workforce to achieve this.
“That is why this new academy is an exciting and very welcome development for the North West. We aim to create 30,000 apprenticeships across the country in road and rail by 2020. We want to attract the brightest young minds into the business and promote the cutting-edge and high-technical careers on offer in today’s rail industry.”
Councillor Rob Polhill, leader of Halton Borough Council, explained: “Alstom plans to create hundreds of high quality jobs and training opportunities, and the new training academy is a fantastic opportunity for local people.
“The Council has been striving for many years to get the site connected to nearby rail infrastructure.
“Not only will Alstom use that rail connection, but they are investing in their own on-site rail infrastructure too.”
Managing director for Alstom in the UK&I, Nick Crossfield added: “The UK remains one of the most exciting places in the world for rail companies like Alstom.
“Here in Widnes, we will create Alstom’s very own rail campus, bringing together our experienced team with the next generation of engineers and apprentices. Longer-term, we would also be able to build trains here, for example for New Tube for London.
“The Government’s investment in the railways offers the UK a once-in-a-generation opportunity to completely transform the passenger experience, and at Alstom we want to build the trains that will deliver that.”
The first project that Alstom will deliver at the rail technology centre is re-painting the Pendolino fleet of 56 Class 390 ‘tilting’ trains used by Virgin on the West Coast Main Line.
The project is reportedly worth some €28m and is expected to create 80 jobs by the time the technology centre is open in May 2017.