March 5, 2021 @ 9:35 by Steven Hugill
A trainbuilder says it has created scores of jobs and laid a platform to be more globally competitive after carrying out a multi-million-pound investment at its County Durham plant.
Hitachi Rail has spent £8.5 million on welding and painting facilities at its Newton Aycliffe factory.
Bosses say the outlay – which has delivered 40 new posts and supported extensive staff training – will support manufacturing work on next generation rolling stock for the East Midlands Railway and Avanti West Coast franchises, and boost the firm’s worldwide potential to export metro, commuter and high-speed trains to markets including northern Europe and the Middle East.
The announcement – first mooted last year – comes after the manufacturer issued a warning in early 2020 over the futures of up to 250 jobs in a restructure described as integral to the creation of a new “core workforce model” to become “more flexible, agile and globally competitive…to win new train orders.”
Hailing its £8.5 million spend, bosses say the move – which has created the first new train welding facility in Britain in decades – will support the creation of more than 230 carriages due to be welded at its Aycliffe base.
Picture: Hitachi Rail
And they say the endeavour means the trainbuilder – which made rolling stock for East Coast and Great Western routes under the Government’s InterCity Express Programme – has spent £110 million on its County Durham plant since its 2015 opening, while bolstering its links with operators including Dyer Engineering and Hydram Engineering.
Jim Brewin, Hitachi Rail’s head of UK & Ireland, said: “The £110 million is not only a sign of our continued commitment to the North East of England, but also British manufacturing and its supply chain.
“At the heart of our commitment is the continued development of a highly-skilled and dynamic workforce, which through our South Durham Technical University College partnership and 70 apprenticeships will drive the rail industry forward at home and abroad for many years to come.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added: “It is fitting that Hitachi Rail are building the next generation of intercity trains in County Durham, a place with a proud and illustrious railway heritage.
Picture: Hitachi Rail
“Their long-term commitment and continued investment in the North East is a major boost for jobs and skills.”
Sedgefield MP Paul Howell, whose constituency includes Newton Aycliffe, described Hitachi Rail’s investment as a “statement of their ongoing efforts to localise skills and supply, creating new roles and opportunities to level up the North East”.
He added: “Their ongoing work with the University Technical College and investment in apprentices is a huge credit to them and my constituents.
“It’s developing real career opportunities for young people in my area, and I look forward to supporting them in their journey forward.”
The trainbuilder’s order book also includes previous work to produce Class 385 rolling stock for Scottish lines between Edinburgh and Glasgow.