£10m rail innovation centre set to create almost 200 jobs in Chesterfield

Almost 200 jobs are set to be created at a £10m rail innovation centre in Chesterfield.

By David Walsh
Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 4:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 9:54 am

Spanish firm Talgo revealed details of the project at Barrow Hill Roundhouse in a ceremony at the 150-year-old site near Staveley.

To show its commitment, chairman Carlos de Palacio handed over one of the firm’s hi-tech passenger carriages which it claims are as safe as rivals but cheaper, greener and almost twice as fast - with a top speed of 220 mph.

The firm hopes to snap up contracts in the UK and European rail markets, including from HS2.

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Coun Tricia Gilby leader of Chesterfield Borough Council and Talgo president and chairman Carlos de Palacio.

As well as 190 at the DRIIVe innovation centre, the company says it will employ more people in Chesterfield when it establishes its UK headquarters in the town centre. It also plans to build a factory in Scotland.

Mr de Palacio said: “This is the beginning. This shows our commitment to all our plans in Britain. It’s great to be a part of the history of railways in your country.”

But he sounded a note of caution.

“All our plans depend on winning orders. We are manufacturers. The centre and headquarters will support the factory in Scotland and we will open it when there is the demand for our trains.

Talgo gifts one of its high technology rail carriages to Barrow Hill Roundhouse Railway Centre. Talgo president and chairman Carlos de Palacio.

“If it goes well, the innovation centre could open in one to three years.”

Talgo and Chesterfield council will sign a joint venture agreement on February 12.

Council leader Tricia Gilby said she was delighted to accept the carriage with its Rodal technology on behalf of the town.

Chesterfield missed out on the Talgo factory, but the authority had since received 20 enquiries from rail firms interested in setting up on the site - at Hartington Pit - which could create more than 1,000 jobs.

Talgo's Rodal carriages have independent wheels which can go faster than traditional paired wheels on bogeys with less friction and wear, the firm says.

If HS2’s eastern leg gets the green light, the borough will also be home to an HS2 rail stop and maintenance depot which could lead to hundreds of engineering jobs, 5,000 new homes, 10,000 other jobs and a £270m boost for the economy, she added.

“It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Chesterfield. Boris should simply get HS2 done!”

She added: “I’m passionate about ensuring today’s children realise the opportunities this investment in rail represents.”

As well as high speed rail, Talgo hopes to win contracts when UK firms replace fleets. The company has two factories in Spain which are at capacity, bosses say.John Veitch, UK managing director, said Chesterfield has a good supply chain of rail firms and young people to work in the sector.

In 2018 there were 435 rail businesses in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Sheffield City Region.

As part of the joint venture, Chesterfield Council wants the innovation centre to train 1,800 youngsters in 10 years.