Hitachi to move rail HQ from Japan to UK as it eyes HS2

Mar 20, 2014

Manufacturer of the first bullet train comes to UK in 'incredible vote of confidence’ for Britain

CARL DE SOUZA / Getty Images

HITACHI, the Japanese engineering and electronics firm that built the first bullet train, is planning to move its international rail headquarters from Japan to the United Kingdom.

The move has been described as "unusual" for a Japanese company, and an "incredible vote of confidence" for the UK.

The firm, which manufactures everything from nuclear power plants to televisions, has a relatively small rail division that employs around 2,500 of its 326,000 workers.

Hitachi says it hopes the UK move will help expand its rail business to 4,000 workers and increase its revenue from around £1.7bn to £2.5bn.

The company won a £1.2bn deal last July to make the next generation of inter-city trains in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, where it is building a factory. The project will initially employ 750 workers when it opens next year.

Hitachi says it sees the Durham contract as "a major operation in the UK" and also wants to "build in the UK for the rest of Europe".

The move is "an unusual one for a Japanese company, and puts it geographically nearer to its main train-building rivals, such as Siemens of Germany", says the BBC. It will also boost Hitachi's British credentials in the wake of rows over rail contracts being awarded to foreign firms.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has described the move as "an incredible vote of confidence in a growing Britain that is exporting more and making great things once again".

He added: "Nothing says that better than the company that built the first bullet train putting its HQ here to sell abroad, alongside a new factory and new jobs in northern England."

The Financial Times says the company is taking aim at projects such as the HS2 high speed rail line and the retendering of rail franchises.

Hitachi has already been advising on HS2 for a couple of years, while a separate Hitachi unit secured a £700m deal to build Britain's new nuclear plants in 2012, taking over the two Horizon nuclear sites at Wylfa and Oldbury from its former German owners.

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