Newton Aycliffe, northeastern England: this is where the world’s first passenger steam train was born in 1825.
Nearly two centuries on, the world’s most modern trains are being built here, based on Japan’s state-of-the-art Shinkansen technology.
The factory opened in September 2015. The aim is to upgrade Britain’s ageing fleet with 122 brand new intercity express trains. The first will be up and running on the east and west coasts later this year.
While the design is Japanese and some parts are made in Japan, the assembly is 100% British. These are not exactly the same as the Japanese Shinkansen – they have been adapted to local needs, for example by using bi-mode technology – which offers seamless transfer from diesel power to electric that is undetectable to passengers.
“They can switch without stopping. It’s very unique. You can be on a journey, and the overhead line might go off, and you can just switch it to bi-mode into diesel without having to stop,” explains Nina Harding, Communications Manager at Hitachi Europe.
It represents an economic boost for the region, creating some 1.000 jobs in the factory alone, as well as the indirect jobs linked to the sub-contracts.
“We’re doing a lot of work in the local community, we sponsored the new university technical college. And so we can inspire the next generation of train builders and engineers, and keep people in the region because the North East needs all these people to stay in the region,” says Nina Harding.
The Shinkansen trains have been running in Japan since 1964. They are not just famous for their high speed, but also offer comfort, punctuality, and exceptional safety: there has been no serious accident involving a Shinkansen train in half a century. India has announced it will use Japanese Shinkansen technology for its first high speed trains.
The Japanese bullet trains have been around in the southeast of England since 2009 on the Eurostar line. The Javelin has dramatically reduced travel time between Ashford and London. Running at 225 kilometres an hour, it covers the 85-kilometre distance in just over half an hour.
Euronews’ Serge Rombi tested it. He spoke to train driver Andrew Perry. “It’s a much more modern train. The driving is faster, which is obviously nicer. The difference really is just about that: it’s about less stopping, more speed and driving a much better train,” he said.