By Phil Marsh

Bullet Train manufacturers move world rail HQ to the UK

Published: 21st March 2014

Hitachi to set up their global rail business near Darlington

Japanse Bullet Train manufacturers Hitachi, has announced that it is to relocate its worldwide train manufacturing business HQ to their under construction UK HQ near Darlington. This is being built at a cost of nearly £90 million and is where the Government procured Class 800 Inter City Express Train will be being built over the next decade.

The decision to move the HQ to the UK gives Hitachi a base inside the European Union which makes exporting to mainland Europe easier. The reason the company decided to use a UK base was, according to Transport Secretary Lord Adonis, because the Labour Government which procured the trains, insisted that they be assembled or manufactured in the UK. So for trading purposes, being based in the UK gives access to the single European market amnd the Channel Tunnel allows trains to be delivered by rail to Europe.

Other manufactureres such as Siemens build their trains in Germany and import them via the Channel Tunnel while Derby based Bombardier will be assembling trains although the component parts are built away from the UK.

Leading from the front

Alistair Dormer has led the Hitachi UK team for a decade and their business commenced with what was known as The V Train, a converted 1960s built Class 310 electric unit equipped with new traction packages. This ran around the southeast ten years ago gathering data and allowing Hitachi engineers to design a train and traction package that would be relaible and fit for the UK rail network. Now Mr Dormer will become Global CEO, Hitachi Rail, from April 1.

The company employs around 2500 people now and this could expand to 4000 over the next three years while projected rail turnover rises by 50% to €3bn in the same timeframe.

They said;

Mr Dormer said that 'Today's announcement is a significant sign of intent by Hitachi to grow its business in the rail market and I am excited by the level of trust placed in me to lead our growing business in this next phase of expansion. Both the UK and Japan remain important as markets for Hitachi Rail, and with our train factory in the northeast of England now under construction, we will work to realise our export potential from the UK, expanding into Europe and emergent markets.'

A decade of UK progress

Hitachi won their first UK train order in 2004 when 29 140mph Class 395 trains were contracted. The deal included a new train depot at Ashford where maintenance is also carried out on the UK’s fastest domestic trains, named ‘Javelins’ and only the Class 373 Eurostars run faster.

Services commenced between Kent and St. Pancras in December 2009 revolutionising travel times and patterns at a stroke. The press train travelled between St. Pancras and Ashford in 29 minutes, but scheduled services take just eight minutes longer.

This gave Hitachi a showcase in the UK and their ‘Javelin’ success has formed the basis of their European and now worldwide rail business. They boasted that their trains would be like in Japan, delivered to agreed schedules and would be reliable and approached the project in a collaborative way with Railtrack and then Network Rail to make sure there were no avoidable slip-ups.

HS2 and the IEP

Hitachi is advising on the HS2 project and will be delivering their new Class 800 long distance express trains from 2017 onwards for the East Coast and then the Great Western Main Lines. These have already created 750 jobs at their factory now under construction near Darlington and the latest news could mean more jobs.

The train order was announced in July 2012 by the Government for the first train order of 92 Class 800 series trains totaling 596 carriages. The trains will offer fast Wi-Fi and power sockets at every seat and high levels of reliability, 10 bike spaces close to seated area throughout the train and really importantly, 50mm more space to store luggage over the seats. This was a lesson learnt from the Alstom and Bombardier built trains initially operated by Virgin.

The new trains will also be able to provide 100 freshly cooked meals for every 120 minutes of travel time. They will replace the 35 to 40 year old BR built HSTs which many passengers think are the best trains designed. Time will tell.

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