New HS2 rolling stock concept

Alstom and Hitachi Rail to design and build HS2 trains

Image credit: Alstom and Hitachi Rail

Alstom and Hitachi Rail have announced that the Hitachi-Alstom High Speed 50-50 joint venture has signed contracts with HS2 to provide the next generation of very high-speed trains for the first phase of the HS2 high-speed railway line.

The contract, which is worth £1.97bn, involves the design, building and maintenance of the rolling stock over a 12-year period.

The trains will be the fastest in Europe, capable of operating at speeds up to 360km/h (225mph) and reducing journey times between London and the Midlands. The 200m-long, eight-carriage trains will run on the new HS2 track and on the existing rail network.

The fleet will be all-electric and, according to a statement from the manufacturers, one of the world’s most energy efficient very high-speed trains on account of low train mass per passenger, aerodynamic design, regenerative power and the latest energy efficient traction technology.

The joint venture will manufacture 54 trains at updated facilities in County Durham (welding), Derby (production line), and Crewe (new bogie manufacturing facility). The manufacturers say this will create “thousands of green jobs” and add £157m for every year of the building phase. The trains will be built, tested, and maintained in the UK, although not wholly designed in the country. The companies will work with HS2 and with HS2 operator West Coast Partnership to refine the final design of the train, before manufacturing begins in 2025.

The HS2 rolling stock contract is expected to create and sustain over 2,500 jobs. 505 people will be directly employed by the two companies in the Midlands and the North in the design and manufacturing phase, including 49 apprentices and graduates working on the prestigious programme. The extensive use of UK supply chain means that a further 2,000 indirect jobs are expected to be created elsewhere in the UK economy, the joint venture said.

As part of the contract, the companies are making new multi-million-pound investments in advanced welding and bogie manufacturing. The new welding facility will carry out vehicle body assembly and fit out, before each one is transported to the East Midlands. Once in Alstom’s factory in Derby, the trains will be fitted with all remaining components including interiors, electrics, and bogies. The bogies will be made by Alstom at their Crewe facility, first time in 17 years that these items have been manufactured in the UK.

The initial train maintenance phase will create over 100 new jobs at Washwood Heath in Birmingham. Alstom’s service centre in Crewe will also become a strategic base for heavy maintenance activity on a significant proportion of the train’s key components and systems.

Alstom and Hitachi’s high-speed train platform “utilises unprecedented levels of smart digital technology”. The in-built digital system includes “state-of-art innovative sensors” that enable potential faults to be identified to ensure reliable journeys. Passengers will be able to access seamless, high-capacity wireless internet, digital seat reservations and more travel information through various channels, with the trains future-proofed to accommodate technological advances.

“We are excited to be pioneering the next generation of high-speed rail in the UK as part of our joint venture with Alstom,” said Andrew Barr, Group CEO for Hitachi Rail. “This British-built bullet train will be the fastest in Europe, and I am proud of the role that Hitachi will play in helping to improve mobility in the UK through this project.”

Alstom’s Managing Director, UK & Ireland, Nick Crossfield said: “HS2 is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform Britain by building a sustainable transport system fit for the 21st Century. I am delighted that Alstom’s joint venture with Hitachi Rail has been selected to develop, build and maintain in Britain Europe’s fastest high-speed train.”

HS2 has proved politically divisive, with critics raising concerns about its cost, environmental impact, London-centrism, and necessity in a new age of remote working. This summer, it was reported by the Financial Times that the cost of the project has jumped another £1.7bn in the past year due to Covid-19-related disruption of work. In November, MPs in the north of England expressed anger at reports that the government is poised to scrap the eastern leg of HS2 between the Midlands and Leeds, with HS2 trains travelling to Leeds on the older lines at reduced speeds.

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