Hitachi Rail’s English factory at Newton Aycliffe in County Durham opened on 3 September 2015 – five years ago.
Over the last five years, from an empty shell of a factory that was opened by then Prime Minister David Cameron, the team has built 192 trains that are now in service. These include the IEP (Intercity Express Programme) trains that have transformed travel on the Great Western and East Coast main 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 spans 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 a new facility to weld and paint train carriages – the first of its type in the Britain for a generation – which will increase capability of manufacturing at the site.
Hitachi Rail has also established its supply chain in the UK, with whom it has spent £1.8 billion since 2013, including with over 130 suppliers in the North East.
In addition, 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 factory’s 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, Hitachi’s chief operating officer for 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.”
Paul Howell, MP for Sedgefield, said: “Hitachi Rail has put train building back on the map in the North East.
“With such a rich railway heritage in the region, including the very first passenger railway, the North East is again becoming synonymous with the best trains in the world.
“I look forward to seeing Hitachi Rail develop and applaud their efforts to continually increase the local content of their supply chain.”