Thursday 20 March 2014 9:19 pm

Hitachi to move its rail business over to Britain

HITACHI, the company behind Japan’s bullet trains, is moving its global rail headquarters to the UK, cementing the firm’s focus on contracts here and in Europe. The company is due to open a factory in Newton Aycliffe next year, creating an initial 730 jobs in the north east of England. Hitachi Rail aims to expand its total workforce from 2,500 to 4,000 depending on contract wins. The new factory’s first task will be to build new carriages for the Great Western and East Coast lines in deals worth £5.8bn for Hitachi and its partners. The company recently lost out to Bombardier’s plant in Derby for the £1bn contract to supply Crossrail’s trains, but could bid for work on HS2 as well as other rolling stock contracts across Europe. The firm is already in the running for work in Sweden and Germany. Hitachi’s Japanese factory supplied the Javelin trains that run on the High Speed 1 line between London and Ashford and helped to develop the Shinkansen bullet trains, which reach speeds of up to 320km an hour on the line to Tokyo. Alistair Dormer, head of Hitachi Rail Europe, will be promoted to global chief executive of the rail business. “Today’s announcement is a significant sign of intent by Hitachi to grow its business in the rail market and I am excited by the level of trust placed in me to lead our growing business in this next phase of expansion,” he said in a statement yesterday. “Both the UK and Japan remain important as markets for Hitachi Rail, and with our train factory in the north-east of England now under construction, we will work to realise our export potential from the UK, expanding into Europe and emergent markets.” Business secretary Vince Cable said yesterday that Hitachi’s shift “demonstrates a huge vote of confidence in Britain, its workers and its rail industry from one of Japan’s biggest businesses”. The change in headquarters will not result in a large number of jobs moving to Britain immediately. The show of faith in the country comes after several controversial decisions by the government to award rail work to foreign firms. German group Siemens won a bid to build the trains for Thameslink, resulting in hundreds of job losses at Bombardier and a political row about the state of British manufacturing.