Rail Industry Focus


Trains for the 21st century

Source: Rail Technology Magazine June/July 2013

Alistair Dormer, executive chairman and chief executive officer of Hitachi Rail Europe Ltd, outlines progress on the IEP.

A project nearly a decade in the making is finally coming together as Hitachi prepares to build Super Express trains for the East Coast Main Line and the Great Western Main Line.

The contract has now reached commercial close for the former and financial close for the latter.

Speaking at the Project Update Theatre at Railtex 2013, executive chairman and chief executive offi cer of Hitachi Rail Europe, Alistair Dormer, set out the latest progress on the InterCity Express Programme.

Dormer began by praising the contribution High Speed Trains (HSTs) have made and their years of successful operation on the GWML, and he said Hitachi had “a big challenge to replace them”.

A substantial fleet

Agility Trains, 70% owned by Hitachi and 30% by John Laing, will provide the trains for services along the routes on a build and maintain basis. The company is involved with a number of operators, disabled groups and Passenger Focus to “make sure this train is fit for the 21st century”, Dormer said.

The Super Express trains order comprises 36 five-car bi-mode trains and 21 nine-car electric trains for operation on the Great Western Main Line, and (on provision of financial close) for the East Coast Main Line, an additional 13 nine-car bi-mode trains, 12 five-car electric trains and 10 five-car bi-mode trains.

“All in all it’s a substantial fleet of trains,” Dormer said. As well as rolling stock, Hitachi will upgrade depot facilities on both lines and provide maintenance services for 27.5 years.

“It’s a very long contract, but it gives us the opportunity to recruit heavily to provide the right level of engineering skills into our workforce to look after these trains.”

Future-proof trains

Each carriage is three metres longer than the existing HST cars, allowing Agility Trains to carry the same number of passengers in a nine-car train as a HST can carry in a ten-car.

700 seats per nine-car set provides greater capacity and the trains will carry the latest intelligent systems and wi-fi .

Hitachi has aimed to make the interior environment “future-proof” for passengers, he said, with a modular design to allow refreshes throughout the train’s lifespan.

The train’s interior was designed in Warwick by DCA. Work has involved mock-ups to determine the optimum seat and luggage storage arrangements, as well as how to fit in toilets and make the best use of the space.

“We are confident we have a very good, ergonomic design for the drivers’ cab; it’s a very comfortable environment and much different to the HSTs they enjoy today,” Dormer added.

Enabling electrification

The bi-mode trains’ diesel engines give a secondary advantage: they allow internal systems such as lights, heating and air conditioning to continue operating regardless of failures with overhead wires, and to transport passengers to the next station in the event of OLE failure.

Hitachi has signed a deal worth more than €200 million with MTU (which also supplied engines and maintains them for the current generation of InterCity 125s) for 250 Powerpacks with Series 1600 rail engines.

Depending on their length, the bi-mode vehicles will each have three (five-unit trains), four (eight-unit trains) or five (nine-unit trains) MTU Powerpacks, and the pure electric trains will be fitted with one Powerpack each for auxiliary power.

The MTU Powerpacks are diesel-electric underfloor drive units, producing 700kW, and include a 12-cylinder MTU 12V 1600 R80L diesel engine.

Dormer highlighted bi-mode as “an electrification enabler” and added: “It would be very nice if the whole of the UK network was electrified, but clearly from a cost point of view that’s a big challenge.”

Once more of the network has been electrified, the bi-mode trains can be easily converted to electric only.

‘A seamless transition’

Hitachi has committed to building three new depots, at North Pole in London, Stoke Gifford in Bristol, and Swansea Maliphant. Four existing depots will be upgraded.

Work is currently ongoing at the North Pole and rubble from the previous sub-contractor has been cleared at the Stoke Gifford site in preparation for the new depot. In Swansea, modelling work has commenced following environmental services.

The North Pole depot is so large that staff will be given bicycles to get around in the shed, Dormer said.

“It’s very important for us to utilise as much of the existing depot infrastructure as we could, but also to ensure we had a seamless transition from the HST fleet into the new Super Express fleet. The addition of new maintenance capability was important for the Great Western as we can migrate the service across and strengthen the service.”

50,000 man hours of work have taken place at the North Pole depot, which is set to open in less than 400 days. Stoke Gifford has seen 15,000 man hours and Swansea 8,000.

“The clock is ticking,” Dormer said. “There’s a huge effort from our supply chain and from UK contractors getting these sites ready.”

Bringing manufacturing to the UK

Newton Aycliffe, in County Durham, is Hitachi Rail Europe’s first UK factory, developed on a greenfield site in an area with a “huge amount of railway heritage”.

The design of the assembly plant has been four years in the making, with construction due to begin this October. Archaeological work is ongoing, but if important remnants are discovered, they will be moved to a different location. Dormer explained: “The local council are adamant this factory will go ahead.”

The first jobs have already started to be let, including a plant manager and HR manager to help fill new roles.

Although the actual production of the rolling stock parts will take place in Japan, Hitachi aims to involve a local workforce as much as possible. Businesses from across the world are part of the supply chain, and there has been “lots of interest”, Dormer said.

If suppliers are not based in the UK, Hitachi is “very keen for our suppliers to come to Newton Aycliffe and set up alongside us”. For UK companies, “we value your business, but we value you even more if you’re based in the north east”.

He added: “This is a long term investment for us so we want others to invest alongside us.”

The right people

Recruiting enough young people to ensure the sustainability of the company is key, and the UK business will go from 200 staff up to 2,000 by 2020.

Hitachi is applying for a university technical college to be built alongside the Newton Aycliffe factory to train the next generation of workers.

Dormer said: “It’s very important that we get the skills and the people. We’re going to be in this factory for many years and we need to enthuse kids who are 12, 13 years old now, to want to have a job with Hitachi in the future, and to make sure they have the skills that we need in this factory and in our depots.

“We need the right culture. We want people with a can-do attitude that are proud to work for a high-technology railway company, people who want to have a long career in engineering.

“It’s about finding the right people, heavy investment in training. We still have a hell of a lot of work to do.”


2013 Award contract for main works, final planning application

2014 Newton Aycliffe construction

2015 Testing facility built, trains tested on East Coast line, handover of turnkey contract, North Pole opens

2016 IEP production begins

2017 First trains go into service on the Great Western Main Line

2018 Trains enter service on the East Coast line


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