Hitachi Rail has now been building trains in the North East for five years, as Thursday 3 September marked the five-year anniversary of the official opening its state-of-the-art train manufacturing factory in Newton Aycliffe.
Opened by Prime Minister David Cameron when it was just an empty shell of a factory, the team has since built 192 trains that are now in service in the UK.
These have included the Class 800/801/802 Intercity Express Programme trains that have transformed travel on the Great Western and East Coast mail lines, as well as the award-winning Class 385 regional trains for Scotland, recognised as the most reliable new trains in the UK.
When the factory opened, Hitachi Rail’s presence in the UK was minimal. Now, the company has a network of train maintenance centres that span England, Scotland and Wales and employs around 3,000 people, 700 of which are based in Newton Aycliffe.
As a result of the factory’s success, the initial investment of £82 million has now been increased to over £110 million. The most recent £8.5 million upgrade is seeing the creation of a brand-new facility to weld and paint train carriages – the first of its type in the Britain for a generation – which will increase the sophistication and capability of manufacturing at the site.
Hitachi Rail has also localised its supply chain in the UK, with whom it has spent £1.8 billion with since 2013, including over 130 separate North East suppliers.
Hitachi’s presence has been a major boost to education in the local area. Over 50 apprentices have completed their training at the factory and the partnership with the South Durham University Technical College, which Hitachi co-founded, has gone from strength to strength.
As it enters its sixth year, the factories focus is on completing orders for new intercity trains for East Coast Trains (5 trains), East Midlands Railway (33) and Avanti West Coast (23).
Ross Nagle, COO Rolling Stock UK, said: “On that first day, when the factory was completely devoid of train cars but full of people – including the Prime Minister, Chancellor and the Japanese Ambassador – we had only a handful of employees and no-one that had built a train before. Since then, we have all been on a steep learning curve and have completed 192 trains that are now carrying passengers and being recognised for their incredible quality and reliability.
“From a standing start, this is a fantastic achievement and is thanks to the resilience and flexibility of the entire Rolling Stock team, who have adapted to new challenges – never more so than the last six months.”