VolkerRail opens new training centre in Doncaster to tackle skills shortage in the railway industry

A new overhead line electrification (OLE) training centre to tackle the skills shortage in the rail industry was unveiled Friday (20 March 2015) by VolkerRail, in Doncaster.

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The centre has been developed in response to an industry wide issue in delivering the planned volumes of electrification projects. This has left the industry searching for suitably qualified personnel, especially high voltage designers and engineers.

Funded by VolkerRail and the Rail Electrification Alliance (REAL), which is made up of VolkerRail, J Murphy & Sons, Network Rail and Siemens Plc, the new OLE training centre provides in-house sentinel and OLEC training to VolkerRail and the REAL workforce.

Located on Carr Hill’s industrial estate in Doncaster, the new training centre was officially opened by Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster and has been designed to cater for existing and future overhead line system equipment and houses two 20m long training spans which are used to undertake low level and high level training in controlled conditions. There is also a signalling and points heating installation on ballasted track, supporting signalling, mechanical and electrical training. These facilities provide the trainees both technical and practical experience, prior to undertaking work on the lineside. In addition the centre also has two classrooms which are used to deliver core rail and safety training to staff in support of the practical training. Furthermore, VolkerRail has developed a bespoke training package in partnership with IOSH (Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) for managing safety in the railway industry. Delivered at the centre, the training focusses on the rail specific application of safety management, providing guidance and interpretation of construction design management (CDM) and law. This training is seen as a nationally recognised qualification.

To date, VolkerRail and REAL have jointly recruited and are currently developing 60 OLE trainees, eight apprentices and four ex-forces conversion engineers. The centre also offers the opportunity for up-skilling the REAL alliance’s and VolkerRail’s existing workforce. Since its first intake of trainees, the centre has provided training for 66 linesman and engineering staff to either OLEC level 1, OLEC level 2 or OLEC level 3 status. Many of these are now working on the East Coast Main Line power supply upgrade project, Staffordshire Alliance and other projects across the UK.

Speaking at the opening Mayor Jones said: "This superb facility will play a vital role helping to supply the skilled workforce that our railway industry needs. We are passionate about Doncaster’s proud railway heritage and our role in the future of the industry, so I am delighted that VolkerRail and REAL have chosen to make this investment in our town. The centre will also complement the new National High Speed Rail College being built in Doncaster, strengthening the contribution that the borough is making towards the delivery of a first class railway network.”

Steve Cocliff, managing director of VolkerRail said: “VolkerRail is committed to training and developing our people. Before the completion of this centre, it was more challenging to provide practical training which could be accessed without going on or near the line. This centre has allowed us to develop our people in a safe environment.

“This project has also facilitated the creation of opportunities for ex-forces personnel, the communities where our projects are based and our existing workforce, helping to build a legacy for the railway.

“I firmly believe that through the training delivered at this new facility, we will meet the industry’s delivery challenges. In support of the rail industry, we will create a sustainable, skilled and motivated workforce to help overcome the current chronic skills shortage.”

Rod Moorcroft, REAL alliance director added: “The Rail Electrification Alliance has been created to provide Network Rail with an exemplary team that combines excellence in collaboration with market leading performance in the delivery of electrification. We are committed to making significant improvements to the industry. 

“We recognised that we could not meet this commitment by ring-fencing the resources we needed by bidding for them against the rest of the industry. We had to create a ‘new supply’. This training centre allows us to recruit, develop and train the next generation, ensuring we have one of the most developed, fully trained and competent workforces in the UK.”