Tyne & Wear

Gateshead rail academy officially opens

Rail academy Image copyright BBC news grab
Image caption The academy will train the next generation of rail engineers

A rail academy, giving students experience of working on the tracks, has officially opened its doors in Gateshead.

The £5m facility, run by Newcastle College, has indoor and outdoor tracks, overhead lines and signal boxes.

It is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, and aims to address a national skills gap, due to an ageing workforce in the rail sector.

About 500 students are expected to be trained in the next five years.

The academy was developed with support from the National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering and Network Rail.

Mark McPake, head of the academy, said it aimed train workers in a different way.

"We're trying to create experiential learning where the students can actually learn by using their hands", he said.

"They will be doing the job they would be doing when they get into the live network, but doing it on the infrastructure we've got here in a safe environment."

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