In 2015, the Japanese global rail specialist Hitachi changed strategy by expanding their business operations to Europe. Hitachi Rail Europe (HRE) opened its state-of-the-art £82 million facility in Newton Aycliffe in September 2015 as part of its ambition to develop a hub of industry and innovation in the North East. But this has not been their only ambition. As well as opening factories in the UK, by 2020 the firm hope to be the biggest maintainer of UK trains. In total Hitachi will have 281 trains running on the UK network, carrying millions of passengers along intercity and commuter routes. Now the firm has announced that they will be building their first intercity express in the country. In addition to building new fleets, Hitachi will maintain the trains at newly built facilities. At an event last week attended by the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, Minister for Northern Powerhouse, Andrew Percy, and Ambassador of Japan in the UK, Koji Tsuruoka it provided an opportunity to view and board the first of the British-built new inter-city express trains and see trains being built at the facility. These trains will be in operation as soon as next summer for a regular timetabled service to begin in the autumn.
Whilst the main operational headquarters is located in the Japanese capital Tokyo, Hitachi Rail Europe ( @ ) is overseen in the London. With 100 years of experience the company specialises in railway system supplies which provide rolling stock, traction equipment, signalling, traffic management systems, and maintenance depots. In Europe, HRE's first rolling stock contract was to deliver a fleet of 29 Class 395 trains, the first domestic high-speed train in the UK, which are maintained at Hitachi's state of the art depot in Ashford, Kent. As part of the British Department for Transport's Intercity Express Programme, Hitachi Rail Europe will replace the UK's ageing fleet of InterCity trains. The trains will be maintained and serviced in a number of new maintenance depots along the Great Western Main Line and the East Coast Main Line.
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Managing Director of HRE, Karen Boswell said: “Today is a celebration of the return of train manufacturing to the North East, supporting thousands of jobs and developing a strong engineering skills base in the region. Trains running across the country's rail network will be built by a proud workforce harnessing the best of Hitachi's long standing rail expertise. The company that built the world famous bullet trains is now building the next generation of UK trains, which will deliver a step change in intercity travel, offering more capacity, greater comfort and a lower carbon footprint."
Why has the Japanese firm moved to the UK?
The decision was initiated two years ago to enhance the company’s ability to win lucrative rail deals across Europe. Since this decision, Newton Aycliffe will employ approximately 900 people by 2017, and in 2019, Hitachi Rail Europe will employ 2,000 people across 14 UK sites, including manufacturing and maintenance facilities. A host of British businesses will continue to supply parts for new trains, supporting thousands of additional jobs countrywide.
The first intercity express train will be built in the UK at its manufacturing facility in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham. But the first train leaving HRE's UK production line marks a major milestone ahead of the introduction of intercity express - £5.7 billion Governmentfunded programme to modernise UK intercity travel. By the end of the programme, HRE will have supplied 122 modern intercity trains for passengers travelling on the Great Western and East Coast main lines, offering vastly improved levels of capacity, reliability and comfort.
It was 90 years ago in 1926 that a senior Hitachi engineer first visited the North of England to study the leading edge railway technology of the time. Today, they have a modern intercity train built in Europe to combine Japan’s innovative technology with British manufacturing. “We look forward to continuing our endeavours to deliver top-quality trains on schedule for our UK customers and train passengers” stated Kentaro Masai, Vice President and Executive Officer for Railway Systems Business Unit, Hitachi.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said, “We are determined to take the big decisions for Britain and are investing record amounts to modernise the rail network, deliver better journeys for passengers and drive economic growth. This first train to roll out of Hitachi's new factory in Newton Aycliffe shows we are open for business and will provide a real economic boost to the North East, not only by providing jobs but also by investing in the skills needed to provide the transport network our country needs for the future.
It is hoped that this business decision will continue innovation and transform passenger journeys and provide an economic boost for the North East. The factory will also start producing new Azuma trains in 2017 which will transform the east coast service.
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