Made great in Britain

A fundamental building block in Hitachi Rail Europe’s strategy for growth, the new rail vehicle manufacturing facility in Newton Aycliffe supports the DfT-led Intercity Express Programme among other major rail projects

As the European headquarters of the transportation division of industrial & social infrastructure systems company of Hitachi Ltd, Hitachi Rail Europe Ltd (HRE) is responsible for the business Hitachi 137 boperation of the transport division’s products and systems in Europe. With a head office in London and train maintenance centres across the UK, the company made the strategic decision to invest in a new rail vehicle manufacturing facility in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham; created to support the Intercity Express Programme as well as other rail projects, the state-of-the-art £82 million factory can manufacture 35 vehicles each month, including high-speed trains, commuter trains and metro trains.

Discussing the facility’s role in the DfT’s Intercity Express Programme is Darren Cumner, Plant Manager at Newton Aycliffe: “We will be providing all rolling stock, which amounts to 122 trains that are replacements for the Great Western and East Coast Mainline, with the two going into service in 2017 and 2018 respectively. This is a £5.7 billion contract and the factory has been built to deliver this programme as well as build other types of trains for other projects we take on. Furthermore, for the Intercity Express Programme we will maintain these trains for 27.5 years through the network of train maintenance centres we are establishing across the country.”

He continues: “The key design of these trains is based on Japanese bullet technology; the trains offer more space as they are longer and can thus fit more passengers on, boast up-to-date technology and are bi-mode so they can run on either diesel or electric power. This means that if there is an interruption in electrical power, or there is no electrical power, the trains can continue to travel on diesel. Further features include the trains being made from lightweight aluminium body shells, making them robust but also taking a lot of weight out of the trains; this aids in track wear, acceleration and deceleration into stations.”

Known for using the most modern and energy efficient technology developed in Japan, HRE has a global reputation for quality, reliability, innovation, design and technical leadership. Having studied its mother company in Japan, HRE has transferred as much technology as possible, while also updating equipment where required, to ensure its £82 million factory is capable of meeting the requirements of major rail projects.

Darren notes that in tandem with the strength of having a cutting edge manufacturing facility is the company’s commitment to following the key mission, vision and values of Hitachi group: “Hitachi itself has harmony, sincerity and pioneering spirit as its key values. Harmony is important amongst the team, stakeholders and customers, and sincerity means that everything we do is done with integrity; our pioneering spirit means we lead with ambition and are flexible to the requirements of the customer. These strengths are at the heart of Hitachi and are entrenched in our history as far back as the founding father in 1910. What we have done is taken those values and created a whole recruitment programme around them – meaning that every one of our employees works in harmony and with sincerity.”

Recently celebrating its one-year anniversary, the Newton Aycliffe plant began with 150 employees in September 2015 and will reach over 900 employees by the second quarter of 2017; the Hitachi 137 ccompany also has an active apprenticeship and graduate programme as well as being a co-founder of South Durhan UTC, a university technical college for 14 to 19 year olds.

Committed to the long-term development of a strong rail and infrastructure industry in the UK and Europe, the company’s new facility has not only boosted the number of jobs available in the North East but also provided hope that one of the UK’s oldest industries can be revived following years of neglect. Moreover, through a localised supply chain, up to 6000 additional jobs could be supported, as Darren notes: “Whenever we could use UK suppliers we have, however sometimes the technology wasn’t available in the UK so we have had to source in Europe. Overall, of the parts that could be localised, 71 per cent of components have come from within 30 miles of the plant, so companies operating as suppliers in the North East have benefited, with a number of supply contracts currently in the press.”

With the Great Western and East Coast mainline being modernised, HRE anticipates demand for follow-on orders for lines stemming off of those in the future and has recently announced the completion of a £60 million deal with FirstGroup for the building of five AT300 trains of five carriages each. “These trains are also bi-mode and will go into service in 2019,” comments Darren.

As HRE continues to focus on delivering trains to its customers, the company is also preparing for the task of maintaining these trains, while also seeking to grow its portfolio in digital rail and other non-rolling stock activities. “We want to fill our pipeline with further orders coming up in the future, such as HS2, as well as other projects. Our goal is to become a total systems supplier in the UK and to specifically grow in both the UK and out into Europe,” concludes Darren.