Britain confirms $2.3b high-speed trains order with Hitachi

LONDON (AFP) - Britain on Thursday awarded a 1.2 billion-pound (S$2.29 billion) contract to Japan's Hitachi to build more high-speed trains at its new factory in north-eastern England.

The government said in a statement it signed a deal for Hitachi Rail Europe to build 270 rail carriages at the new purpose-built plant in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, which will employ 730 staff. The class 800 series trains will become operational on the state-run East Coast Mainline, which links London with Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh, from 2019.

"This new order for class 800 series trains is part of the government's commitment to invest in our nation's infrastructure," said Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin. "This will not only deliver significant benefits to passengers by further slashing journey times and bolstering capacity, but will also stimulate economic growth through improved connectivity between some of Britain's biggest cities. This is good news for rail passengers and for British manufacturing."

The new order covers the design, construction, finance and maintenance of the trains over a 27.5-year period.

Last year, Britain agreed to order nearly 600 train carriages with Agility Trains - a consortium comprising Hitachi and British partner John Laing - for the inter-city high-speed rail project. On Thursday, it exercised an option for an additional 270 train carriages, bringing the total number to 866.

"This follow-on order by the Department for Transport is great news for passengers on the East Coast Main Line who can look forward to quicker journeys travelling on high-quality trains, with more seats and passenger space, built to the latest safety standards," added Hitachi Rail Europe's executive chairman and chief executive Alistair Dormer.

"This order is a tremendous boost for Hitachi Rail Europe's new factory with its 730 future employees in County Durham and for the British supply chain.

"This order extends firm orders at the factory until the end of the decade with significant capacity remaining available for further UK and export contracts actively being pursued."