Finbarr Dowling is Director of Localisation for Siemens Mobility Limited, which is investing up to £200 million in developing a state-of-the-art rail manufacturing facility in Goole, East Yorkshire. Previously he led the Siemens project to establish a world-class centre of offshore wind manufacturing, assembly and logistics in Hull. In this blog, Finbarr shares a unique and enlightening experience of how he found Yorkshire to be a prime business location and how local resources and talent can be utilised to maximum benefit for the region and local businesses, fuelling further investment opportunities and creating space (place) for regional and nation-wide economic growth.
The perfect places
Hull and Goole are two places just 30 miles apart, both rich in opportunity.
Siemens Mobility has selected East Yorkshire for its two most recent major investments in the UK and I’ve been privileged to lead both projects.
It might seem incredible that a comprehensive search and review of dozens of potential sites would eventually pinpoint two locations so close to each other, but there are many reasons why Hull and Goole are the perfect places for us.
They’re places where our businesses can thrive and where we can create a long-term legacy of regeneration and skills. There is great talent in the region, essential for up to 700 new jobs we will create as part of the Goole development, with 1,700 indirect supply chain opportunities.
Access to infrastructure and markets
Geography and logistical factors favoured these Yorkshire locations. They both offer accessibility to key infrastructure and markets and are places that we had confidence we could find and develop the workforce we needed.
In Hull, Siemens Mobility were bringing a big new industry to the UK, requiring space for the manufacture of 75m wind turbine blades (they’ve now grown to 81m!) and the assembly and loadout of the blades, towers and nacelles. We found the space to accommodate these huge components at Hull’s Alexandra Dock on a gigantic plot, the size of 78 football pitches.
Another essential factor was access to the North Sea where the world’s biggest offshore wind farms have been constructed over recent years and continue to be built. Hull ticked the box, positioned at the heart of the Humber with excellent ports infrastructure on both banks of the estuary.
The Alexandra Dock site also had established consent for a container terminal that could quickly be adapted for the development of a new harbour to accommodate the huge vessels that take our blades and the other enormous components out to sea.
Fantastic place to do business
The fundamentals were right, but so too was the investment climate – Siemens Mobility found Yorkshire to be a fantastic place to do business.
From our earliest conversations with local leaders, particularly at Hull City Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council, we felt fully supported. Across the full range of our requirements – planning and consent, development, promotion, education, skills, recruitment and more – we received the support we needed to deliver our vision.
So much of that support was delivered under the Green Port Hull banner – a powerful partnership of ourselves, the two local authorities and other key stakeholders.
It’s no coincidence that we returned to East Yorkshire and are once again enjoying a fantastic working relationship with partners.
In Goole we have benefited from the region’s innovative Single Conversation Group, under which the local councils, Humber Local Enterprise Partnership and Government agencies come together to collectively streamline the delivery process of key investments.
It’s a simple idea, but so powerful and presents a template for successful, co-ordinated inward investment. It simply makes it easy for us to do business.
As in Hull, local government has been innovative and helpful with our plans for Goole, as has the local MP Andrew Percy, who is a great champion of our investment.
National Government has also been supportive. The land we’re developing is leased from a Government agency, Homes England, and Siemens Mobility was privileged to host a recent visit to our construction site by the Prime Minister.
Pipeline of talent
Another reason Yorkshire scores for Siemens Mobility is its traditional and continuing strength in manufacturing. It’s a region with a workforce perfect to help us develop.
East Yorkshire is the European capital of caravan building, an industry with transferable skills for turbine blade or train manufacturing. It also has a fantastic heritage in marine engineering, again directly relevant to our logistics and harbour operations. Meanwhile, Brough, between Hull and Goole, is where fighter jets have been built for decades and we saw people come into our business from that route.
Our research indicated the skills would be available within the region and this was vindicated with 28,000 applications for the 1,000 jobs we created in Hull – 96% of them from the Hull area. We’re confident we’ll get at least as good a response in Goole.
Our investment in Goole builds on a strong rail tradition in Yorkshire. Goole is close to Doncaster, a railway town with thousands of people employed in the industry, and it offers access to a potential workforce across east, west, north and south Yorkshire, all within 30 minutes commute.
When considering locations for investments such as these we look at the immediate employment pool and the longer-term pipeline of talent and how we can work with schools, colleges and universities to develop a supply line of future employees. I’m delighted that we have chosen Selby College as our training partner for our Goole apprenticeship programme.
A great example of our proactive approach was our critical role in establishing Ron Dearing University Technical College in Hull to develop the digital engineers and tech specialists we and other leading employers in the region require to meet the challenges and opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution.
Opened in 2017, the year after our blade factory, Ron Dearing UTC has been over-subscribed in each of its first three years and is rated as outstanding across the board by Ofsted.
I couldn’t be prouder that among the first 12 apprentices we have recruited for Goole are two former Ron Dearing UTC students – and even prouder that these rail engineers of the future are female.
That illustrates our commitment to diversity and inclusivity – to creating a workforce that reflects society today.
The Freeport opportunity
Goole is the UK’s largest inland port and part of the country’s busiest ports complex. That presents an enormous opportunity for this cluster to be granted Freeport status, which we are developing with partners, including Associated British Ports.
It is understood that Chancellor Rishi Sunak would like to establish ten Freeports around the UK as powerful economic zones to address post-Brexit issues around customs and tax arrangements, stimulate new inward investments, particularly in manufacturing, and create new jobs.
We and our partners strongly believe there is no better location than the Humber, including Goole, to deliver on the exciting potential for economic development that Freeport status offers. We are working as one team to secure an opportunity we believe is critical to the future success of the Humber.
Connected and collaborative
Great connectivity is another key factor for Goole; with a rail line linking to the national rail network, as well as enjoying excellent road connections across the North and three airports all within an hour’s travel time.
Similar to Hull, space was a key consideration for the selection of our site for the Goole 36 enterprise zone, off Junction 36 of the M62. There, we found a 67-acre plot, ripe for development and of sufficient size to accommodate our trains factory and associated facilities. Our goal is to create an industry-leading “rail village” bringing together manufacturing, research and development, digital innovation, and key suppliers.
In both Hull and Goole we have encouraged collaboration, innovation and research and development.
In Hull we were a key catalyst for facilities that will cement the Humber as a worldwide centre of excellence for the offshore wind industry. We worked with partners across the industry in a consortium, led by the University of Hull, to establish the Aura Innovation Centre, which is supporting businesses to develop low carbon projects, drive green innovation and clean business growth.
We also worked with the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership to develop the Humber’s Clean Growth Strategy and we are partners with the University of Hull in an ambitious project to make the university campus carbon neutral by 2027.
The UK is a world leader in the offshore wind sector, largely due to what is happening in the Humber. The region is now building on that success with many projects to address the decarbonisation agenda, including the Zero Carbon Humber initiative. Led by partners including Drax Power, the UK’s biggest energy generator, this has the creation of a carbon capture cluster as a key pillar, alongside using offshore wind power to provide green hydrogen power.
Digital centre of excellence and innovation
In Goole Siemens Mobility vision is to create a centre of excellence for the UK rail industry, focused on technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, digital analytics and robotics.
This is a connected and collaborative investment. We’re working with partners such as the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKKRIN) and the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCREE), part of the University of Birmingham.
At its core will be a state-of-the-art trains factory, but it’s much more than that. It will create new opportunities, jobs and career development.
That’s why the innovation cluster being developed at the Goole site, known as the Rail Accelerator and Innovation Hub for Enterprise (RaisE), is so important.
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. Not only will we be building world class trains for Britain’s rail network, but could also manufacture future mainline suburban and intercity trains and utilise new technologies like battery and hydrogen power.
The Siemens effect
The Siemens effect is about belief and confidence. In Hull two key things happened at the same time – the arrival of Siemens and Hull becoming UK City of Culture. Together they created the conditions for regeneration, further investment and new jobs.
From 2009 and 2012, Connected Places Catapult’s CEO, Nicola Yates, was the CEO of Hull Council and played a pivotal role in the development of the city that we can see the benefits of today, of which she received an OBE for her services during this time.
For every job we created in Hull there were at least another two created indirectly. Many more have been created in the Humber by industry partners such as Ørsted. Offshore wind is now firmly established as an anchor industry for the Humber and the UK.
Now we’re in Goole and good things are happening there too. Goole has space, ready to be developed, and is at the heart of a great logistics network. In addition to this, a great source of talented people, good schools, colleges and universities and industry partners who want to work with us to realise the exciting potential.
FTSE 100 chemicals business Croda is completing its new European distribution hub with the creation of 800 new homes just a stone’s throw from our site and Beal Homes, one of the region’s leading privately-owned housebuilders.
New industries, jobs, opportunities and homes are all generating positivity and optimism around the town.
Goole is a place ‘on the up’. It’s one of the best connected and fastest-emerging places in the North, with some of the best and most attractive places to live and bring up your family within easy reach.
All these factors make it a compelling place to invest.
Siemens Mobility investment in Goole is all about levelling up, in terms of jobs, skills and career opportunities.
The first trains built in Goole will be Piccadilly Line Tube trains for the London Underground – beautiful trains built in the North will be used by millions of commuters in the South.
It’s not a handout. People don’t want handouts – they want opportunities. This will create great jobs and develop skills for people in the North making trains that will improve the lives of passengers in the South. Everyone’s a winner!
In 2023 our trains, engineered and manufactured in Goole, will be deployed in our capital city. That says it all. How much more connected can you get?
By Finbarr Dowling