Karen Boswell OBE, Managing Director of Hitachi Rail Europe, writes from Innotrans 2016
After four days in Berlin racing between meetings in a busy exhibition hall seemingly the size of a small city, I’ll look back on Innotrans 2016 as a significant milestone in HRE’s journey.
The expo showed our business in a new light. We had one of our biggest ever stands and presence, as part of a global family of rail pioneers. We showcased alongside Hitachi Rail Italy and Ansaldo STS, with input from other group companies, including Hitachi Metals, on one united and extremely creative stand. As a team, we conveyed a strong message to the industry, that when it comes to rail engineering, there is no substitute for expertise, innovation and pioneering spirit. From rolling stock to digital signalling systems, we have solutions for our customers globally.
The week has been a great opportunity for me to meet with our key stakeholders and to introduce our global colleagues and their expertise all under one roof.
What I’ve enjoyed most about Innotrans 2016 is telling our story of growth over the past 12 months.
Our rail manufacturing facility at Newton Aycliffe officially opened in September 2015, and is now a hive of activity as it builds 110 new trains for Great Western and East Coast main lines. Better still, with a number of contract wins including new trains for Scotland and Transpennine Express, the facility has a strong pipeline of work. We have created a major economic asset in the North East of England, creating skilled jobs and apprenticeships which will benefit the region for years to come.
Whilst Newton Aycliffe continues to impress and is a focus for the industry today, it was also the growth in our service delivery business which got people talking this week. We used VR headsets on the stand to virtually show visitors around our new train maintenance centres. In the ‘real world’ Stoke Gifford is up and running, playing a major role in the testing programme for our new Intercity trains on the Great Western Mainline. Our modernised site at London North Pole has expanded its workforce as it motors on towards running at full capacity. Meanwhile, construction work on two additional maintenance centres at Doncaster and Swansea continues apace. From 2018 Hitachi built and serviced trains will be running across the country, from Penzance to Aberdeen.
With so much happening in our business we’ve been recruiting non-stop. Hitachi Rail Europe now has over 1,000 UK employees, a statistic that has wowed many of many international colleagues, especially some of colleagues in Japan who can remember just a small handful of people in the London office. However, we’re by no means finished yet.
By the end of 2019 we will look to double our headcount to 2,000 employees, working across 14 different sites. We’re well on our way to being the UK’s largest train maintenance supplier whilst building 250 new trains in Newton Aycliffe.
The next chapter in Hitachi Rail Europe’s history is the most exciting one yet.
P.S You can see plenty of videos, blogs and pictures from Innotrans 2016 on a dedicated page here