Hitachi Trains looking for engineers, suppliers...and a £100m factory
The East Midlands will find out around the turn of the year whether it has done enough to persuade Japanese industrial giant Hitachi to build a £100m train factory that could bring hundreds of jobs to the region. But the firm has already said it wants to hear now from engineers and suppliers who want to work with it
Sir Stephen Gomersall, who heads the firm's European operations, was in Nottingham yesterday discussing potential sites with the East Midlands Development Agency.
talks: Sir Stephen Gomersall, right, and head of sales at Hitachi's Rail Group, Mac Motraghi
Before the talks, he visited the Evening Post to outline Hitachi's plans for a factory to assemble high-speed trains required under a £7.5bn Intercity Express Programme.
The East Midlands is competing against South Yorkshire and the North East for major inward investment that would bring hundreds of jobs as well as business and employment for supply chain companies.
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The Government's decision to award the deal for the trains to a Japanese-led consortium rather than one involving Derby train maker Bombardier caused a political storm.
But Sir Stephen said yesterday that East Midlands manufacturing businesses would have much to gain from the arrival in of a factory run by a major player in international rail engineering. He would not be drawn on whether Hitachi preferred an local site, but said the presence of rail engineering skills would be an advantage.
"Because it's such a large contract we decided we should substantially build the trains in the UK," said Sir Stephen. "That's not a contractual obligation but something we decided to do. So there is going to be a genuine manufacturing operation in the UK.
"We are thinking long-term. We are building a manufacturing facility not just for this contract but for other contracts we would hope to get in the UK and Europe in due course.
"We are looking for people who already have a mix of rail and other engineering skills and for people we can train. The presence of these skills in this area is beneficial, but we have to weight that with other considerations. We anticipate the basic infrastructure will be present in each area, otherwise it is too early to say."
Sir Stephen, a former British Ambassador to Japan, met a delegation from Emda which included chairman Bryan Jackson, the former chief executive of Toyota's British operations.
He discussed two sites in the East Midlands – the G Park at Ashby De La Zouch and the East Midlands Distribution Centre near East Midlands Airport at Castle Donington. Hitachi is looking for a site which has rail and road connections and the necessary planning permission.
But it also wants to make early contact with companies who could be suppliers. Mac Motraghi, the head of sales at Hitachi's Rail Group, said the company had already held one supplier conference and now plans others.
He told the Post: "The first conference attracted 112 delegates from 67 companies. We will hold others and we want to hear from potential suppliers who we can add to our database."
Sir Stephen said both Bombardier and Hitachi would benefit from the growth of rail. "Rail is fundamentally going to be a growing industry for the next 20 years in the whole of Europe for environmental and other reasons.
"There are a number of contracts in the pipeline in the UK and we anticipate there will be plenty of work to go around. We have a lot of interests in common – infrastructure, a strong supplier base and service for passengers.
"What we hope this will be seen as the UK having two centres of manufacturing excellence rather than one.
"We hope we can build up the supply and manufacturing capacity, which could eventually strengthen British exports."
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