Saudi Prince discovers world class learning facilities in Birmingham

With Saudi Arabia investing billions in high speed rail as it diversifies its transport infrastructure to include more non-oil sources, a Saudi delegation led by HRH Prince Abdulaziz Bin Faisal visited the National College for High Speed Rail’s Birmingham campus. He was accompanied by Andrew Hammond, Managing Director of Riyadh based International Transport company Future Solutions, and the Group CEO Mohammad Mutabagani.

The Saudi representatives visited the campus on Lister Street to discover best practice in technical training and see first-hand the cutting-edge equipment available to learners at the National College – the world’s first dedicated high speed rail college. The visit is one of several international delegations that have been invited to tour the college this year, with previous visits from representatives of rail projects in Malaysia, Singapore and Bulgaria, as well as a recent delegation from the 2018 International Seminar for Railway Education and Training (ISRET).

As the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) looks to reduce the nation’s reliance on crude oil and promote the entire Middle East region as part of its Vision 2030 programme, it is already investing heavily in its railway network with Haramain High Speed Rail, a 281-mile line between Medina and Mecca, due to open later this year. The Prince requested to see the college as part of his British visit, to see how training is being delivered through innovative technologies. He met with some of the college’s learners and experienced how the world-class learning facilities which include Virtual and Augmented Reality headsets, and 3D printing technologies, are helping to prepare a new generation of railway engineers and leaders.

It is intended that similar methods will be used for future training in Saudi Arabia: the Haramain High Speed Rail project has been developed by a Spanish consortium on a build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis. With this project now nearing completion and the Spanish team preparing to conclude operations, Saudi Arabia is looking to train its own workforce to deliver future high speed rail projects.

“As we begin to provide Britain with a talented workforce that has the skills to deliver pioneering infrastructure, fit for the 21st Century, it’s fantastic that our innovative training methods are already generating international interest,” says Clair Mowbray, chief executive of the National College for High Speed Rail. “High-speed rail has the potential to be a Great British export industry in the coming years. As such, it’s just as important that as we continue to partner with employers here in the UK, that we develop and maintain strong international links so that we can learn from, and share best practice with the global community of railway leaders, experts and professionals.”

“Everything we’ve seen at the college has been impressive – from the design to the way of teaching with new technologies,” said HRH Prince Abdulaziz Bin Faisal al Saud. “We already had high expectations before arriving but what we’ve seen here has exceeded those expectations. Our understanding of how things are working here will definitely help to inform future projects in Saudi Arabia.”

Charlotte Webster, an apprentice with WSP studying on the college’s Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship Course for High Speed Rail and Infrastructure, says: “I started with the college in September and it’s been a very different experience to previous education pathways I’ve been through. The college has high-spec, state-of-the-art technology which isn’t available anywhere else. We can apply the knowledge we learn in the classroom here and bring it forward in a practical manner when we’re out working in the field. The high level of technical education will be incredibly useful for delivering future plans and projects such as HS2.”

The Prince is in the UK following his meeting in Jeddah with the Transport Minister the Rt Hon. Chris Grayling along with senior officials from DfT.