HITACHI Rail has commissioned new welding and painting facilities at its factory in Newton Aycliffe, Britain, which will be used to manufacture next generation inter-city trains for East Midlands Railway and Avanti West Coast.

As part of a £8.5m investment, Hitachi has also created 40 new positions and hired newly graduated welders and painters to manufacture aluminium coach bodyshells for the fleets. Hitachi Rail has now invested £110m in the County Durham facility, which is due to weld more than 230 coaches.

The investment has also involved an extensive upskilling programme for staff and apprentices, including an eight-week initial training programme for welding certification, followed by further training to obtain additional specialist qualifications.

The firm established the manufacturing base, with a 700 strong workforce, in 2015 to build 122 trains as part of the government’s Intercity Express Programme, along with 70 zero-emission class 385 regional trains for Scotland.

Hitachi says the new manufacturing capabilities will allow it to further expand its British supply chain, including new domestic suppliers such as AES in Glasgow, Airblast in Peterborough and KM Tools in Stoke-on-Trent, as well as expanding its existing relationship with north east firms such as Dyer Engineering and Hydram Engineering.

The new welding and painting facility will provide Hitachi with the capability to expand its offer to metro, commuter and high-speed trains. Target markets include northern Europe and the Middle East. Hitachi Rail’s partnership with Hyperdrive Innovation, which was confirmed last year, also has the potential to support manufacturing of battery trains at Newton Aycliffe.

“The £110m we have now invested at Newton Aycliffe is not only a sign of our continued commitment to the North East of England but also British manufacturing and its supply chain,” says Mr Jim Brewin, Hitachi Rail’s head of UK and Ireland. “At the heart of our commitment is the continued development of a highly skilled and dynamic workforce, which through our South Durham Technical University College partnership and 70 apprenticeships will drive the rail industry forward at home and abroad for many years to come.”