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Transport for the North Chief Executive Visits Hitachi Rail

United Kingdom – The chief executive of Transport for the North, Barry White, visited Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe facility in County Durham. He was interested to learn how Hitachi Rail is investing in the engineers of tomorrow. 

A Hitachi Rail Class 800 Azuma at Gleneagles
A Hitachi Rail Class 800 Azuma at Gleneagles © Chris Watt

Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe facility opened in September 2015. The complex covers 31.5 acres and has more than a thousand employees. Given its scale, the site plays a major role in stimulating the region’s train manufacturing industry. Some of Hitachi Rail’s projects for the UK include e.g. the Class 385 trains for ScotRail and the Class 800 Azuma diesel-electric trains that are part of the government’s Intercity Express Programme.

Transport for the North’s Strategic Transport Plan

Transport for the North has developed a Strategic Transport Plan. It lays out why investing in rail is vital in order to bring in new companies to the region and help existing companies grow. The North East of England has suffered from decades of under-investment. It also lacks transport links. Consequently, by addressing these issues, the region stands a better chance of succeeding and creating better opportunities for future generations.

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By improving transport links, companies can move their goods more efficiently. It will also allow them to attract additional talent and engage in collaborations. The knock-on effect then of attracting global companies such as Hitachi Rail is that regional suppliers win contracts and their employees enjoy job security.

Hitachi Rail and the University Technical College

Hitachi Rail is collaborating with the University of Sunderland and Gestamp Tallent. Together they have created the University Technical College (UTC), which opened its doors in September 2016. Specifically, it is a state-funded school for 14–19-year-olds that specialises in a range of professions, including engineering. The model is simple: students at the college study academic subjects at GCSE and A-level, while increasing their technical knowledge and skills. They also get to work directly with employers in the region. In this way the students are optimally prepared for entering the workforce.

TfN Hitachi visit
The TfN visit at Hitachi Rail’s Newton Aycliffe facility © TfN

Transport for the North Chief Executive Barry White said:

“Whist our Strategic Transport Plan is called a transport plan, it’s actually about utilising transport investment to deliver economic growth and provide the people of the North with access to new opportunities and a better quality of life.

“By transforming transport links we’ll be enabling strongly performing northern industries to continue to grow, which will support us to rebalance the UK economy and provide access to new opportunities for the people of the North.

“The fact that global industries, such as Hitachi, have chosen the North as a base for their operations speaks to the opportunity, talent and skill in our regions, and it’s exciting to see Hitachi investing in the people of the North through UTC-South Durham.”

Nick Hughes, Hitachi Rail UK Sales Director, said:

“Through the UTC, Hitachi Rail is providing students with a range of work experience opportunities that we hope will inspire their future career choices.

“Since the college opened in 2016, we have helped shape the curriculum, hosted visits for all students, contributed equipment, sourced mentors and provided interview experience.”

Interior of Hitachi Rail Newton Aycliffe facility
Interior of the Hitachi Rail Newton Aycliffe facility © Hitachi

TfN’s Vision for the Future of the North’s Economy

In January 2019 Transport for the North unveiled its vision for the future of the North’s economy. The visit to Hitachi Rail is in support of this vision. The Strategic Transport Plan, finalised in February 2019, showcases how 70 billion GBP of investment until 2050 could contribute in excess of 100 billion in economic growth in the region and create 850,000 additional jobs. One flagship programme that is part of the Strategic Transport Plan is Northern Powerhouse Rail. The plan also includes upgrades to the existing rail network and the continued roll-out of smart ticketing.

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