High-speed trains sched­ule on track

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Business - by Mike Ben­nett mben­nett@thek­m­group.co.uk

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

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