Finbarr Dowling, Project Director for Siemens Mobility’s new £200 million rail facility in Goole explains how and why the company has set about creating so much more than just a train-building factory
The UK rail sector is in a state of flux. Not only is it seeking to overcome the ever-changing challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, it must do so against a wider policy landscape focused on themes such as levelling up, job provision, innovation and decarbonisation.
With continued economic focus on Covid-19, job provision has never been more vital – particularly outside major urban centres. With its wide, regionally diverse employment potential, the rail industry has a responsibility to nourish young talent and address regional inequality in line with the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.
Furthermore, as the National Infrastructure Commission has made clear, rail will play a significant role in meeting the UK’s target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Now, more than ever, the rail industry has a responsibility to consider its impact on the environment at every stage of planning and design.
Key to delivering this will be investing in innovative research projects that utilise digital insights and intelligent software. Not only will this help the UK meet its climate commitments, but it will help position the country as a global player in pioneering rail technology and development.
With rail evolving at such a fast pace, there is a demand for projects across the UK that encapsulate these elements and we at Siemens Mobility are confident that our new rail manufacturing facility in Goole will embody just that.
A new UK centre of innovation and research
At Goole, we want to create more than just a rail manufacturing facility; we want to create a lasting legacy for the rail industry and long-term skills and careers for the region. Our £200 million investment in a 271,000 square foot, state-of-the-art train factory is set to catalyse change for both the region and the UK rail sector as a whole. Importantly, this will have a big impact in terms of employment opportunities, with up to 700 skilled jobs in engineering and manufacturing, 250 in the construction phase and 1,700 in the broader supply chain.
In July this year, we were delighted that the Prime Minister formally marked the beginning of construction on the site; the first step towards the completion of one of the most advanced rail manufacturing centres in the country.
When complete, the factory will manufacture and commission world-class trains. The first of these will be new air-conditioned tube trains for London’s Piccadilly line, with plans for additional train manufacturing in the future. This could include additional underground vehicles for the Bakerloo, Central and Waterloo & City Underground lines, plus mainline suburban and intercity trains.
The site is on a trajectory to become so much more than simply a place to manufacture trains. We want it to become a centre of innovation and research, trialling new technologies such as AI, digital analytics, and robotics. This demands the best British talent in engineering and design, providing opportunities to develop skills and advance careers outside of London and other urban hubs. Additionally, and in line with Net Zero aspirations and targets teams at Goole will work on new decarbonisation technologies to make our railways greener and more sustainable.
This means we’re confident that Goole has the potential to sit at the epicentre of a thriving rail industry in the UK. Here’s how we’re achieving it.
Yorkshire: a region with a rich manufacturing heritage
Our investment in Goole is all about levelling up, in terms of jobs, skills and career progression opportunities. We hope our facility will help contribute to reinvigorating the area and making it a great place to live.
Goole is a place on the up. It’s one of the best-connected and fastest-emerging places in the North, which offers access to a potential workforce across East, West, North and South Yorkshire, all within a 45-minute commute.
Yorkshire holds a strong rail and manufacturing tradition. Next door to Goole sits Doncaster, a railway town with thousands of people employed in the industry. East Yorkshire is the European capital of caravan building, an industry with transferable skills for train manufacturing. Of course, Siemens has a strong footprint in Yorkshire already, and has had for many years. We have train maintenance depots in Leeds & York. In addition, we have a large number of colleagues working in our Rail Automation & Electrification businesses based in York.
When you consider all these factors, there is a clear, compelling rationale for local investment, and I am truly delighted that we have chosen Goole as the place to base such an exciting project.
Building on the strong local roots
We’re keen to invest further in the local economy and are looking to use Yorkshire and northern-based companies as much as possible. Continuing throughout the first wave of Covid-19, we contracted East Yorkshire based construction firm C R Reynolds for the enabling works for the site. They haven’t had to furlough anyone and have employed six new people as a direct result of working on the project in Goole. We’re also partnering with Clay10, a local design company, for the project’s visuals. Involvement in the Siemens project has helped the company’s profile and growth as they’ve recently hired two more people to develop into an eight-person team. We want those in the region to continue to play a part in this important project and have more success stories like these.
A fresh and diverse pipeline of talent
When considering locations for investments such as these, we look at the immediate employment pool and the longer-term pipeline of talent. As mentioned previously, there’s a wealth of relevant skills in the area.
We also look at how we can work with schools, colleges and universities to develop a supply line of future employees. Investing in skills has always been part of our approach, which is why we helped establish Ron Dearing University Technical College (UTC) in Hull when Siemens was developing the wind turbine blade factory in the city. Opened in 2017, Ron Dearing UTC has been over-subscribed in each of its first three years and is rated as ’Outstanding’ across the board by Ofsted.
For this latest project, I’m delighted that we have chosen Selby College as our training partner for our Goole apprenticeship programme.
In September, we welcomed our first twelve apprentices, the first of up to 700 employees who will work at the Goole site. I couldn’t be prouder that among those apprentices are two former Ron Dearing UTC students. We want Goole to illustrate our commitment to diversity and inclusivity and so I am even prouder that five of these rail engineers of the future are female.
Chosen from over 200 applicants, these apprentices began their three-year programme this September. They will spend their first year at the college to develop core engineering knowledge and competencies, and in the second year will spend four days a week on placement at Siemens Mobility’s train-care facility. They will then split their third year between working full time at the Goole facility and a six-month placement in our rolling stock facility in Vienna getting global expertise.
All of this is designed to ensure that our apprentices receive the best training and experience so that they can contribute to making our Goole facility as forward-looking as possible.
An innovation hub
In Goole, our vision is to create a centre of excellence for the UK rail industry. We are encouraging key suppliers to co-locate on site with us to create a ‘rail village’.
In addition to the rail manufacturing facility, the Goole development will encompass a research and development and digital innovation cluster serving the UK rail sector focused on technologies such as artificial intelligence, digital analytics and robotics. This will create a clear focus on the creation and implementation of intelligent rail infrastructure for the UK.
Known as the Rail Accelerator and Innovation Solutions Hub for Enterprise (RaisE), collaboration is at its heart. We’re working with partners such as the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKKRIN) and the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE), part of the University of Birmingham. This will attract the brightest and the best talent and projects to Goole. We’re setting the bar high to deliver the solutions for the UK’s railways and rail infrastructure.
No investment nowadays is significant unless consideration is given to its environmental impact.
We’re paying close attention to our carbon footprint. Our global aim at Siemens is to achieve carbon neutral operations by 2030, and we are well on our journey to achieve this, already reducing our emissions by 41 per cent.
These commitments to the environment naturally extend into the development at Goole. Our plans are designed to deliver a Carbon Net Zero factory, not just in its construction phase, but in its operations over the next 60 years. In addition, our aim for the Goole development is to achieve Biodiversity Net Gain status. The area that neighbours our facility is rich in biodiversity. We aim to enhance that biodiversity and will work with enthusiasts in the community to achieve that aspiration.
While we’re already starting from a good position in terms of environmental impact, Goole is set to take this even further for the wider rail industry and act as a platform where engineers and research partners can drive research and development in the electrification, battery and hydrogen technology.
We are already leading the charge in helping UK rail meet its net zero emissions target by 2050. We’re a leading supplier to the UK of electric multiple units (EMUs), including more than 1,100 vehicles for Thameslink’s Class 700 fleet which were designed to be as energy-efficient as possible. We now stand ready to offer other low-emission alternatives and will soon be offering our customers electric trains that can be part-powered by either batteries or hydrogen.
Additionally, we’ve teamed up with our sister company Siemens Energy to jointly drive development for hydrogen in mobility. We will be able to offer the whole end-to-end solution hydrogen solution for eco-friendly trains including hydrogen generation, hydrogen refuelling infrastructure and technically advanced rolling stock. We are working on offering ‘hydrogen as a service’ for a train’s entire life. Work on producing hydrogen from ammonia is now also underway – another method of creating the fuel that is increasingly viewed by the transport sector as one of the keys to unlocking Net Zero.
Britain’s number one rail industry partner
We’ve been integral to UK rail industry development for over a century, with hundreds of millions of pounds invested in facilities, employees, and technology in the past five years alone. By creating a UK-based rail innovation hub, we’re underlining our continuing commitment to the UK and showing the rest of the world how our country is leading the way. We’re at the beginning of an exciting journey, and I am excited to see what the future holds.