Hitachi to build new generation of high-speed trains for Britain

Japanese firm Hitachi is part of the consortium chosen to build and maintain a new Super Express train fleet for Britain. They will replace existing high-speed trains that are now 20-30 years old, and will be manufactured in the UK.

Agility Trains, which has been named by Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon as preferred bidder for the £7.5bn contract, comprises John Laing, Hitachi and Barclays. It is committed to spending 70 per cent of the contract value in the UK and says it expects the programme to deliver 2,500 skilled engineering jobs in train manufacturing, construction and maintenance.

A new train manufacturing plant will be built in the UK, as well as depots in Bristol, Reading, Doncaster, Leeds and west London with upgrades to existing depots throughout Great Britain. This will create or safeguard up to 12,500 direct and indirect jobs in the local supply and services industry and local supporting communities.

The trains will operate on the East Coast and Great Western Main Lines, with options for deployment on London commuter services on the West Coast Main Line and on services between London and the West of England (Penzance and Exeter). The initial tranche will be delivered for the East Coast Main Line in 2013.

They will replace the distinctive Intercity 125 High Speed Train (HST) diesel fleet and Intercity 225 electric fleet procured by British Rail during the 1970s and 1980s.

The Super Express trains are part of the overall Intercity Express Programme (IEP), led by the Department for Transport (DfT), which includes a package of other measures to improve the capacity and capability of the routes.

Professor Andrew McNaughton, Network Rail's chief engineer, said: "Network Rail has been delighted to support DfT from the very start on the development of this project. This will be the first train for many years which has been developed as part of a system together with the GB rail infrastructure.

"We have worked with DfT to optimise the design of both train and infrastructure to give the best capacity and passenger experience and the best whole life costs. This is a big train, but it will tread softly and so reduce the amount of maintenance and network down-time needed."

Agility said: "The Super Express Train is 15-40 per cent lighter per seat than the trains it replaces; it will use less energy to deliver improved journey times and it will incorporate the world’s first High Speed hybrid traction power source. This technology, pioneered by Hitachi in partnership with Network Rail, will deliver up to 15 per cent reduction in fuel consumption."

The total fleet of up to 1,400 coaches is planned to be in service by the end of 2018. It will comprise full electric, bi-mode and hybrid trains as specified by DfT, configured in 10 and 5 coach formations (26m coaches), delivering over one million additional seats per year on the East Coast route alone.

Hitachi, as principal supplier to Agility Trains, says it will establish "a world class rolling stock manufacturing facility" in Britain, in anticipation of further demand in the UK and other European rail markets. Three sites are under consideration: Ashby de la Zouch, Sheffield and Gateshead.

Bombardier, the only train-maker currently to have a base in Britain, was part of the unsuccessful Express Rail Alliance, along with Siemens, Angel Trains and Babcock & Brown. However, it has been awarded a consolation prize as preferred bidder to build 120 new carriages for the Stansted Express airport service, safeguarding jobs at its Derby site.

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