A network of training excellence

Source: RTM Aug/Sep 17

Writing on behalf of the Training Alliance, Simon Rennie runs through the early results of a tight-knit collaboration agreement between key rail organisations.

Ribbons have been cut, the minister has made a stirring speech, the BBC’s radio car has departed and the final pastry scoffed. Senior sponsors are delighted with the warm glow of PR generated by the opening of the latest Rail Training Centre (and clear commitment to UK plc through public-private investment). 

It could, of course, be like this – investment in buildings masquerading as a route to solve skills shortages while the players in the training world chase the same objectives in a poorly co-ordinated game of duplicated provision. The taxpayer should weep. 

And yet… co-ordination to deliver the required high-quality skills is real. It’s worth recapping that both government and industry strategy is strongly aligned through the Transport Infrastructure Skills Strategy and the Rail Supply Group Sector Strategy – in particular emphasising the need for high volumes of quality, levy-funded apprenticeships. Secondly, as reported in these pages last year, NSAR CEO Neil Robertson announced a training network, a collaboration between publicly-funded rail training leaders in the UK. 

In practice, this means a Training Alliance consisting of Network Rail, TfL, the National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR), the Alstom Academy and the National Training Academy for Rail (NTAR) coming together to form a network of excellence which has a common vision and high-quality, industry-defined standards; collaborating, not accidentally competing. 

Rail from above c. MarioGuti edit]

© MarioGuti

Each element of the group has distinct purpose and vision: 

  • Network Rail Training provides a national training service that allows customers to benefit from economies of scale but feels local at the point of delivery. The service aligns customers’ objectives and priorities so that it delivers behavioural safety, leadership and professional development to enable continuous improvement of safety and business performance in the areas of track infrastructure, electrification, ETCS, traffic management, control room operations, stations, telecoms and signalling operations
  • The NCHSR is a specialist institution with sites in Birmingham and Doncaster, dedicated to delivering innovative higher technical training to the workforce who will deliver HS2 and other rail modernisation and infrastructure projects. It is industry-led, with businesses contributing to the design and delivery of the curriculum, donating specialist kit, and offering work experience and mentoring opportunities to students. At full capacity, the college will train 1,200 students per year
  • TfL is proud to be a member of the Training Alliance and places a strong focus on channelling its skills and capability into delivering a significant number of apprenticeships across the rail sector to meet the significant future demand of its customers, London’s ever-growing population
  • The Alstom Academy has a vision to support modernisation and innovation for the industry by driving thought leadership and enabling strategic workforce agility – providing opportunities for sector-specific early careers, upskilling and leadership development in the areas of traction and rolling stock, signalling solutions, Lean, project management and leadership development
  • NTAR, co-funded by Siemens, has a particular focus on Level 2-4 traction and rolling stock rail engineering apprenticeships, setting out to attract Generation Z learners through innovative and engaging learning channels serving rolling stock manufacturers, TOCs and the broader supply chain 

There’s a natty description that says skills development must be ‘pre-competitive’ – the point being that if industry fails to pull together, then resource pools shrink, wage inflation steepens and the required development of the railway can’t be achieved through lack of manpower. 

Soundbites are cheap, but what about the substance? As a snapshot of collaboration, reflect on these: 

  • Network Rail chairs the Trailblazer group that defines the overarching rail engineering standard adopted by industry and that the entire Training Alliance will use. Similarly, HS2 chairs the High-Speed Rail and Infrastructure Trailblazer delivered by the National College
  • Siemens, through NTAR, is placing learners at the National College and is donating equipment
  • TfL is working with NTAR on both operational training and co-investing on interactive fault-finding tools
  • Alstom has donated equipment to both the National College (#Donnystar and #Brumstar chief among them) and NTAR, while Alstom and NTAR are working jointly on training projects for their graduate engineers
  • In turn, the National College and NTAR are working on a joint proposal to deliver Level 4 apprenticeships to Alstom
  • Network Rail is working with NTAR to deliver traction and rolling stock apprenticeships and both have jointly developed online induction material for new rail engineering apprentices industry-wide 

So, the early signs are good. There is a focus on the common good, and the taxpayer, for now, can save their tears.



[email protected]


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

View all News

rail industry focus

Versatile coating system enhances Indestructible Paint rail industry role

12/08/2020Versatile coating system enhances Indestructible Paint rail industry role

A highly versatile and robust epoxy coating s... more >
Network Rail partners with Cycling UK for new initiative

03/08/2020Network Rail partners with Cycling UK for new initiative

Network Rail and Cycling UK have launched a p... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Year with brand-new infrastructrure to... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the TOC, gives RTM an update on the innovative scheme. Recognising that young people are more likely to take a risk trespassing on railway tracks, C... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

29/06/2020On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

Following an independent audit, Sulzer’s Nottingham Service Centre has been accepted as part of the rail industry supplier approval scheme (RISAS). The accreditation reinforces the high-quality standards that are maintained by Sulzer’s network of independent repair facilities across the UK and further afield in its global network. ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio 4's BBC’s flagship news programme that he wo... more >
Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

08/05/2019Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

In answering the pressing questions of how current and future generations of managers can provide solutions to high-profile infrastructure projec... more >
Women in rail - is the industry on the right track?

12/03/2019Women in rail - is the industry on the right track?

RTM sits down with Samantha Smith, sole female member of the TransPennine Route Upgrade Alliance Leadership Team, to find out more about encourag... more >
TfN Strategic Transport Plan: not just for transport's sake

22/01/2019TfN Strategic Transport Plan: not just for transport's sake

Peter Molyneux, Transport for the North’s (TfN’s) strategic roads director, has been leading on the development of the seven economic... more >