The UK Department of Transport has officially opened a National Training Academy for Rail (NTAR) in Northampton, which will provide high-tech skills to students.
The £7m national hub for rail engineering excellence will train the next generation of skilled rail technicians, engineers and managers using the latest digital, 3D and virtual reality equipment.
The UK Government has funded 50% of the project, while the remaining 50% has been funded by rolling Siemens.
UK Rail Minister Claire Perry said: "This new facility – and more like it – are just what the country needs to ensure we develop a workforce with the advanced skills required to build a transport network fit for the future."
NTAR provides laptops to modern rolling stock technicians instead of spanners and digital signalling systems operated from the inside of cabs.
The facilities at NTAR include the latest digital signalling equipment, a deconstructed train, and a virtual reality and 3D simulation room, where students can use Oculus Rift headsets to understand how different components work.
UK Skills Minister Nick Boles said: "Industry-led training will ensure that learners are getting the skills employers want, while many rail firms have also designed new apprenticeship standards for roles like rail engineering technician to deliver the skills needed for UK rail to expand here and internationally."
NTAR general manager Simon Rennie said: "Our ambition is to be recognised as an international centre of excellence for training in traction and rolling stock and to be the source of pride for the rail industry."
Development of a co-ordinated national network of transport infrastructure skills colleges and training academies represents one of the key aims of the UK Government’s transport and infrastructure skills strategy.
Being developed by Crossrail chair Terry Morgan, the strategy will also outline how the government will deliver on its ambition to create 30,000 apprenticeships in roads and rail over the next five years.
Image: UK Rail Minister Claire Perry along with other officials during the opening ceremony of National Training Academy for Rail in Northampton, UK. Photo: courtesy of the UK Government.