Made in Britain

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Just over a year since it opened, Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe factory has rolled out the first British-built train of the Intercity Express Programme (IEP).

A significant milestone in the £5.7 billion IEP programme, the manufacturer marked the occasion on 9 December with a celebration at the site.

The event included speeches by the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, and the Ambassador of Japan to the UK, Koji Tsuruoka, both of whom stressed the benefits the trains and the factory would bring to the North East.

Karen Boswell, managing director of Hitachi Rail Europe, considered the event to be a celebration of the return of train manufacturing to the North East. She was pleased at the way the £82 million site was developing a workforce with the strong engineering skills needed by the industry.

By the spring of next year, Newton Aycliffe will have a workforce of nearly 900, including 50 apprentices. By 2019, Hitachi will employ 2,000 people across 14 sites in the UK and support thousands of additional jobs countrywide.

FIVE TRAINS A WEEK

During a tour of the plant, trains could be seen at various stages of completion. Production is still being transferred from Japan to the UK. Hitachi is supplying 122 Class 800/1 electric and bi-mode trains for the Great Western and East Coast main lines in total, of which 12 units are being manufactured in Japan. Currently the site puts together around three vehicles a week; the target is to increase this to five a week. The train at the centre of the fanfare was one of the five-car bi-mode units for Great Western which will start to go into service soon. On the side of the train it reads ‘Designed in Japan, built in Britain’.

Although the assembly of the trains is now moving from Japan to the UK, components like the bogies and aluminium body shells will continue to be manufactured in Japan. However, UK suppliers are being used for many other key parts, including the pantographs, brake systems and wheelsets.

BEST OF BRITISH MANUFACTURING

In addition to the 122 IEP trains, the plant currently has orders for 36 bi-mode units for Devon and Cornwall routes, 19 Transpennine Express trains, five trains for Hull Trains and 70 Class 385 ScotRail trains. The event marked a low-key milestone for the Scottish trains as well. Adjacent to the Class 800 was a Japanese-built Class 385 that was about to be hauled to Scotland for testing under its own power on the Gourock line.

This will be done within a possession as the train’s effect on signals has yet to be assessed. In a statement released ahead of the event last month, Kentaro Masai, vice president and executive officer, chief operating officer, Railway Systems Business Unit, Hitachi, said, ‘It was 90 years ago in 1926 that a senior Hitachi engineer first visited the North of England to study the leading-edge railway technology of the time.

‘Today, we have a modern intercity train built in the North East by combining the best of Japanese technology delivered with the best of British manufacturing.’

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