Inspiring the next generation
Hitachi Rail Europe (HRE) is a global transport specialist with over 100 years of experience building pioneering trains, offering quality maintenance and developing innovative new technology
With the recent announcement of both the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy and the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Rail Strategy, 2018 is shaping up to be the beginning of an exciting new era of investment in rail.
The DfT’s strategic vision for the railways sets out a number of proposals to increase capacity and improve service for customers, and this is welcome news for not just the travelling public but for the rail industry as a whole. The proposed expansions of the network, through re-openings or new lines, will not only require major infrastructure spending but will also inevitably lead to demands for a raft of new railway related technology. Train operating companies will be looking for partners that are offering innovation, efficiency and reliability, and it will be total railway system suppliers such as Hitachi Rail Europe (HRE) that are waiting to meet their needs with state-of-the-art solutions.
A wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., HRE benefits not only from its parent company’s years of experience working on Japan’s extremely efficient and punctual rail network, but also from a decade of running trains on the UK network. Established in the UK in 1999, the company welcomed the opportunity to transfer skills and technology to the UK from Japan and so, in 2001, designed the V-Train 1 (Verification Train) in order to test and prove that its equipment would work in the UK.
The following years saw the opening of its flagship maintenance depot in Ashford, Kent in the UK, as well as its first rolling stock contract, to deliver a fleet of 29 Class 395 trains, the earliest domestic high-speed train in the UK. Further significant contracts followed, and in 2012 HRE won the manufacturing contract for 122 trains for the £5.7 billion Intercity Express Programme. This was a major milestone for HRE, and five years later, Great Western Railway’s brand new Intercity Express Train carried passengers for the first time in October 2017. As Hitachi Rail Europe Managing Director Karen Boswell highlighted, this represented nine years of hard work, from building a brand-new factory and workforce to establishing modern maintenance facilities from Swansea to London. “We delivered pioneering 21st century trains for passengers and sparked a manufacturing renaissance in the North East,” she added.
Also in October 2017, HRE unveiled the first completed Class 385 electric fleet of trains for Abellio ScotRail. Built in HRE’s state of the art £82 million Newton Aycliffe factory, in County Durham, the trains represent an important part of Abellio ScotRail’s plan to build the best railway Scotland has ever had, and will offer faster journeys, more seats and better services for passengers.
At the launch, Ross Nagle, Chief Operating Officer (Manufacturing), Hitachi Rail Europe, said: “Today we celebrate the first commuter trains we have built here in the North East. We’re delighted to welcome the Class 385 – a modern, high-tech commuter train – into the Hitachi Rail family. Like all our trains it is inspired by Japanese bullet train design, but built with British know-how.”
A month later and Hitachi Rail Europe was celebrating the Class 385 again, when Scottish Transport Minister Humza Yousaf was able to get on-board one of the brand-new passenger service trains while it did its latest run on the Newton Aycliffe test track. Once the train reached Scotland in December it began its rigorous route testing, staff familiarisation and driver training to enable it to come into service in the coming months.
Alongside its well-established track record for the creation of innovative rolling stock, HRE will soon employ over 2000 people across 15 locations. To support this it is proudly building a new generation of railway engineers and technicians, having announced in August 2017 that it was launching a new national apprentice and graduate programme. The company has already co-founded a new university technical college in the North East, UTC South Durham, which opened in 2016. The college is for 14-19 year olds enabling students to gain both an academic and technical education in an exciting and inspiring learning environment. Karen commented: “We are creating a lasting legacy in the UK with new trains, new facilities and most importantly, a new generation to drive the rail industry forward. If our country’s rail industry is to succeed we must promote technical skills to young people. By closing the UK’s engineering skills gap we can improve passenger experiences with new and better rail services.”
HRE’s foresight into the need for bright new talent was quickly shown to be a brilliant strategy, as it was announced in November that it had been shortlisted to deliver Britain’s next generation, state-of-the-art trains for the HS2 contract, which will carry tens of thousands of people every day across the UK’s new high speed network and beyond. Responding to the announcement, Karen noted that it will deliver enormous benefits for the whole of the UK, with a spokesperson for HS2 confirming that ‘the new fleet will deliver unparalleled levels of reliability, speed and comfort as well as providing much-needed extra capacity between the UK’s major cities and giving a boost to high tech skills and expertise in the UK’.
As 2018 appears on the horizon, through careful strategy, continuous improvements and a dedication to quality, HRE has positioned itself as an impeccable example of operational excellence.“I believe that we are on the cusp of a new era for UK rail with record levels of investment and exciting projects,” Karen stated. HRE is perfectly positioned to take advantage of these opportunities, at the same time as making significant contributions to the entire rail environment in the UK.