Hitachi is moving its rail HQ to the UK

Good news for UK manufacturing, as the Japanese company moves its train headquarters out of its home country.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 20 Mar 2014

After George Osborne cut £7bn off manufacturers’ energy bills for the next four years in the Budget yesterday, there is another dose of good news for the UK’s manufacturing industry this morning.

Japanese giant Hitachi, which makes everything from nuclear power plants to televisions, is moving the global headquarters of its rail business from Japan to the UK and increasing manufacturing here. An unnecessarily huge effort, one might think, but shifting halfway around the world will bring it closer to its German train-building rival Siemens.

The move will help insulate Hitachi from populist squawking over rail contracts being awarded to foreign firms. People worry when the likes of Siemens and Hitachi get awarded multi-billion pound deals to build trains, rather than Canadian company Bombardier, which already employs thousands in the UK.

Hitachi’s rail division is relatively miniscule, employing 2,500 out of a total of 326,000 staff worldwide (more than the population of Cardiff in case you were wondering). The manufacturer of the first bullet train is planning to increase that to 4,000 and wants to increase rail revenue to €2bn (£1.67bn).

Last year, it won a £1.2bn deal to make trains for First Great Western and the east coast lines in County Durham, where it’s building a factory. ‘We see it as a major operation in the UK and we want to build in the UK for the rest of Europe,’ said Alistair Dormer, the former head of the European rail division who will now head up the global business. HS2 is also on the company’s radar, as it takes aim at big new European rail projects with its move here.

While more companies following Hitachi to the UK won’t necessarily make us a Germanic manufacturing powerhouse again, the move fits in nicely with George Osborne’s Budget for ‘makers, doers and savers’ yesterday. Convenient timing.

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