Hitachi/Alstom JV HS2 deal gives huge UK construction boost

By Dominic Ellis
Landmark £2bn contract awarded to Hitachi / Altsom JV will see 54 high speed trains built for operation on HS2

HS2 continues to divide opinion and the cancellation of the Birmingham-Leeds line was greeted by dismay by many in the north of England.

But from a construction viewpoint, the positives continue to stack up. With tunnel work pressing ahead, yesterday's news that the Hitachi / Alstom JV has been awarded lucrative contracts to build Britain’s next generation of high speed trains at their factories in Derby and County Durham, is a major deal which will support 2,500 UK jobs.

The landmark contracts – worth around £2bn – will see the JV design, build and maintain a fleet of 54 high speed trains that will operate on HS2 between London, the West Midlands and Crewe.

Capable of speeds of up to 225mph (360km/h), the fully electric trains will also run on the existing network to places such as Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and the North West. Building on the latest technology from the Japanese Shinkansen ‘bullet train’ and European high-speed network, they will be some of the fastest, quietest and most energy efficient high-speed trains operating anywhere in the world.

The design, manufacture, assembly, and testing of the new trains will be shared between Hitachi Rail and Alstom.

  • The first stages including vehicle body assembly and initial fit-out will be done at Hitachi Rail’s facility at Newton Aycliffe, County Durham; and
  • The second stage of fit out and testing will be done at Alstom’s Litchurch Lane factory in Derby.

In another major boost for train-building in the UK, all the bogies (which house the wheelsets) will both be assembled and maintained at Alstom’s Crewe facility – the first time since 2004 that both jobs have been done in the UK.

Hitachi Rail has recently completed a £8.5m investment in new welding and painting facilities at Newton Aycliffe where the 432 HS2 bodyshells will be manufactured.

The first train is expected to roll off the production line around 2027. Following a rigorous process of testing and commissioning, the first passengers are expected to be carried between 2029 and 2033.

HS2 Chief Executive Mark Thurston said the trains will offer passengers unparalleled levels of reliability, speed and comfort and help in the fight to remove carbon from our transport system. 

A recent study commissioned by Hitachi/Alstom JV estimates that the award could generate benefits of £157m per year across the UK and support 2,500 jobs including opportunities for apprenticeships and graduates.

Designed to be fully accessible, the interior layout will be decided following a two and a half year collaborative design process involving HS2, the Department for Transport and the West Coast Partnership, the operator of the trains when they first come into service.

Each train will be around 200m long, with the option to couple two units together to create a 400m long train with up to 1,100 seats.

The train will also benefit from Hitachi Rail’s pioneering low noise pantograph – the arm which collects power from the overhead wires. Developed in Japan, this technology will make it quieter that comparable high speed train and use regenerative braking to boost energy efficiency.

It will also be 15% lighter and offer 30% more seats than comparable high-speed trains in Europe – such as the Italian ETR1000 built by JV between Hitachi Rail and Alstom.

Alongside, design, manufacturing and testing, the contracts also included 12 years of maintenance which could be extended in the future to cover the estimated 35-year life of the rolling stock. The fleet will be maintained at a new maintenance depot being built by HS2 Ltd at Washwood Heath on the outskirts of Birmingham, creating jobs and additional apprenticeship opportunities.

The Hitachi / Alstom JV will work with HS2 and Birmingham City Council to support the development of opportunities for employment arising from the construction of the new maintenance depot at Washwood Heath, Birmingham and to provide opportunities for local people to engage in training and development opportunities.

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