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New forum to promote UK supply chain abroad

At the start of construction on Hitachi’s £82m rolling stock factory at Newton Aycliffe, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin and business secretary Vince Cable have launched the new Rail Industry Supply Chain Forum.

The forum aims to strengthen the industry by providing an international strategy to maximise the economic potential of UK rail business. It will provide a better understanding of the capability of suppliers and improve how Government and industry promotes this capability overseas.

It will also reduce the risk of “feast and famine”, the government said, and provide firms with early warning of potential problems with orders, as well as building the capability to win more contracts.

Newton Aycliffe will see trains for the Intercity Express Programme (IEP) assembled before they go into service from 2017. The bodyshells are being manufactured in Japan.

The trains will be maintained in depots in Doncaster, Bristol, Swansea and London, and Hitachi has said it expects to achieve 60,000 miles per casualty on the electric-only trains, and 45,000 miles between casualties for the bi-mode.

Darlington-based firm Shepherd has been awarded the contract to build the new factory.

McLoughlin said: “The IEP is part of the government’s commitment to investing in our nation’s infrastructure. Once they are on the network they will slash journey times, boost capacity to many of our cities in the South West and up the East Coast to Scotland.

“Building these new trains is supporting jobs and manufacturing across the UK. Like our plans for a national high speed rail network, these new faster trains will help stimulate economic growth by improving connections between our major cities.”

878 hitachi

(Above image courtesy Hiatachi Rail Europe shows McLoughlin and Cable at the ceremony this morning)

Cable said: “Hitachi's decision to base its European factory in Newton Aycliffe shows the UK is an attractive place for international businesses to invest and grow. It also underlines the industrial benefits of the rail revolutions now taking place in the UK. As well as attracting inward investment, we also need to develop a strong, co-ordinated and competitive supply chain here which complements and supports other industry initiatives.

“The creation of the Rail Supply Chain Forum will ensure we are working in partnership with industry in line with our Industrial Strategy, so British businesses are better able to win work both here and abroad.

“With increasing numbers of passengers set to use our railways over the coming years, we also need to train and encourage more young people to enter the industry. The Government has invested in a new rail training academy in Northampton which will address skills shortages in traction and rolling stock. We are also creating a new Rail Supply Chain Forum to help British companies to win work both here and abroad.”

Terence Watson, the UK president of Alstom and chair of the forum, said: “It's a real privilege to be invited to chair the new Forum, just as we're on the cusp of a new golden age for Britain's railways.

“I'm determined to help industry and government develop its strategic capability and also to develop our many rail SMEs to ensure that they can win more work both here and abroad.”

Executive chairman and chief executive officer of Hitachi Rail Europe, Alistair Dormer, said: “We want to establish Hitachi Rail Europe as a key British manufacturer of trains and this new factory is a huge step towards doing that. In just 18 months, what stands today as an empty field will become home to a state-of the-art facility, manufacturing trains for Europe and the UK.”

The plant would also mean more local employment, he added, with over 150 jobs in the build phase. 

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at


Pnjarvis   02/11/2013 at 03:13

Our diminutive railway In deepest Wales needs to recruit young people to learn some ancient skills. So every year we have Kids' Week, where we take forty young folk at age 14-16, put them in blue overalls, big boots and orange visivests and teach them to to be railwayfolk for a week. They have tuition from some exceedingly senior people and they come back for three years, if they want, after which they are able to volunteer in a more senior capacity. We now have Kids of Kids. We have girls who want to drive steam engines and boys who want to be chefs. True, there are beach parties and barbecues; one young lady said she'd really come for the social life, but she quite understood some bricklaying was involved. Another young lady, having learnt tiling, tiled her grandmother's bathroom, her University lodging bathroom and somebody's kitchen. It is delightful to watch them learning skills in a closed environment with perfect safety. We have also had young Network Rail platelayers (we still use the old term) to learn tracklaying without 90mph trains whistling past. We teach First Aid. We teach electrics. The skills we teach are transferable. And it is all tremendous fun.

Jb   08/11/2013 at 18:43

Would it not be better to ensure that the UK factories of Bombardier, Brush and Alstom at Crewe, Derby, Loughborough and Preston are filled to capacity before inviting overseas competitors to build new factories? The UK rolling stock manufacturing industry has for too long been starved of orders. Placing orders outside the UK will not help our local industry to recover from the order shortage of the 1990s.

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