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York's Bid for High Speed Rail College Suffers Major Blow

HS2 - Birmingham and Fazeley Canal - high res

7:04am 12th May 2014

York's bid to host a high speed rail college in the city has suffered a major blow.

The Leeds City Region, which is responsible for promoting economic growth in York, Selby district and West Yorkshire, has instead favoured a bid to build the college in Leeds, instead of York's bid.

Around 2,000 apprenticeships would be created in 2017 if a new college was built in York. Sixty businesses across Yorkshire and the North East are backing York to host the college, including East Coast, Tata and Omnicom. York College, the University of York, Darlington College and Teesside University also back York's bid.

However, the Leeds City Region has backed a rival bid for a college to be built in South Bank in Leeds, although the organisation does say it supports the idea of the college being built in the region as a whole. The economic body's chairman Roger Marsh said in a statement:

"Nowhere is better placed than Leeds City Region to host this flagship new college. Our strategic location and connectivity at the centre of the UK strategic road and rail network means we are the gateway to the North."

"Our engineering and rail industry credentials are the strongest in the country, with the highest concentration of employment of LEP areas by a wide margin, coupled with an impressive skills partnership and railway heritage means this bid puts forward a strong case to locate in the region."

"This is a perfect opportunity for the High Speed Rail College to boost the City Region economy and provide the skills and opportunities for our next generation of young people."

In a letter to government minister Matthew Hancock, the local enterprise partnership revealed it chose the Leeds site because of it's closeness to the new HS2 rail station for Leeds, existing rail and motorway links, the benefits to the wider regeneration of the South Bank area of Leeds and Leeds' ability to attract international students.

However, the same letter makes direct reference to York referring to:

  • The railway heritage of York
  • The joint rail safety research centre in York
  • National Skills Academy for rail engineering at York College

The Leeds City Region decision will re-ignite the row over the controversial decision last year by York Council to leave the York, North Yorkshire & East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership in favour of the Leeds City Region.

The North Yorkshire based business group is backing York's bid. Last month, Barry Dodd, chairman of the York, North Yorkshire & East Riding Enterprise Partnership, said:

"The UK excels in several technologies but it is rare to gain the operating benefits of critical mass, particularly in the North of England. The York and North Yorkshire with East Riding LEP believes the proposed High Speed Rail College should be located in York because the existing brand new Network Rail training centre together with impressive rail infrastructure is already there. The HSR college would therefore gain instant critical mass, provide cross training opportunities and achieve cost benefits if positioned in York."

The government is set to reveal which city will host the High Speed Rail College in June or July.

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