Spent a lot of time on trains this week and when I haven't been on trains have spent a lot of time talking about them.
Currently en route to Birmingham for the Core Cities business summit, aimed at getting business engaged with a cities prospectus due to be launched later this month in London ( another train journey! ). Yesterday was lovely as I didn't leave Manchester at all. Much of the morning was taken up with the Museum of Science and Industry's Advisory Board. Becoming part of the Science Museum Group and so a National Museum has been really good for MOSI, though I would love it to lose that acronym ( even MoSI would be better than MOSI - discuss ). Most of the agenda was on very exciting and ambitious plans for the museum's future, but every meeting now has a fair chunk of time spent on the subject of the Ordsall Chord, a crucial part of the Northern Hub, and what is needed from Network Rail to mitigate its impact on the site.
Tuesday was spent in London talking about place-based budgeting and how we can deliver better through organising public services around people, their families, their neighbourhoods, rather than around service silos. Back home for an evening meeting, and then after an Executive agenda-setting the following morning back down to London for a meeting of the European Structural Funds 2014-21 Structural Funds and Instruments Growth Programme Board. Definitely not very exciting but fairly important as this body is overseeing the allocation of billions of pounds of EU money over the next programme period and this will be by someway the biggest source of funds available to support job creating growth and the low carbon agenda.
And so back to Monday and another day happily spent in the city. In the morning I went to visit Alstom's 50 acre Manchester Traincare Centre in Longsight, just a mile or so out of Piccadilly Station, and was bowled over. It is the main service centre for Pendolino trains as well as providing a big chunk of the overnight services. Some very impressive gear like the jacks that can lift an entire eleven coach train at once so the wheels can be changed. As well as the work for Virgin, they also do some work for Northern and TransPennine, and the most impressive thing is four hundred highly skilled jobs right in the heart of Manchester. They are a global centre of excellence with people coming from all over the world to learn how trains should be maintained and after a long hiatus they are now once again employing apprentices - young people coming in to this skilled and disciplined environment. A great morning and has even improved my train riding experience.