High-speed trains schedule on track
DESPITE doom and gloom about transport issues following the Channel Tunnel fire, the future looks bright for the Ashfordbased Hitachi Rail Group.
This week the firm has been celebrating the first anniversary of the official opening of its Ashford train maintenance centre.
In the past year the centre has hosted 3,500 visitors from the British, European and Japanese rail industries and has created 47 jobs.
Ashford is home to the Class 395 high-speed trains that will operate passenger services between Kent and St Pancras from December next year, cutting journey times to around 37 minutes.
The October 1 milestone marked a successful year for the Ashford programme of testing, over 31,000 miles of the high-speed and domestic track, and maintenance of the first four units.
Hitachi general manager Alistair Dormer said: “In addition to looking after the Class 395s, for the past 12 months Ashford has been servicing up to 5,000 Class 375 and 465 vehicles per month for Southeastern.
“Our maintenance operation at Ashford combines best practice from both the UK and Japan and investment into our workforce is a key issue.
“Our team leaders have all spent time in our factory and gained first hand knowledge of the Class 395 trains by working on the production line.
“Our apprentice scheme is another example of our investment into developing a skilled workforce.
“In July 2007, two apprentices were employed in Ashford. After completing the first year of the Network Rail Maintenance Apprentice course, they have now returned to the Hitachi depot to complete their studies. We decided to extend the scheme, and in July this year, two further apprentices were employed.
“Hitachi Rail Group is committed to the UK rail market and our state-of-art facility in Ashford represents a first step for us. We are here to grow our rail business in the UK.”
A high-speed Hitachi bullet train at Ashford