Hitachi In UK Move To Shunt HS2 Rail Rivals
Japanese engineering giant Hitachi is to move its rail division's decision-making hub to Britain, in an attempt to shunt its European rivals.
The shift is also seen as an attempt to lay a track for plans to bid for the High Speed Two (HS2) contracts.
Alistair Dormer, who has headed its London-based European rail section, will be responsible for refocusing the division away from a Japanese viewpoint to a greater global perspective.
"Europe is one of the largest rail markets in the world and has a lot of potential for new growth," an Hitachi spokesperson told Sky News.
"Passenger numbers are rising and it gives us a stronger focus in capability and business opportunities."
The announcement comes a day after Chancellor George Osborne told Parliament in his Budget speech that Britain has "under-invested for decades" in infrastructure.
Mr Osborne said: "We've been reminded again this week of the benefits high-speed rail will bring to the north of our country and I'm determined it goes further north faster."
The company is building a new plant in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, after winning a £1.2bn contract for 270 next generation intercity carriages.
That order, won last year, is part of the larger £5.8bn Intercity Express Programme.
Its 395 class high-speed trains have been in operation since December 2009 on lines from London to Kent, where it also has maintenance facilities in Ashford.
Its factory will initially employ 750 people and it hopes to increase the company's rail section workforce by 60%, taking the global total to 4,000.
Business Secretary Vince Cable called it a "huge vote of confidence for Britain".
"It's further testament to the Government's industrial strategy which is giving companies of Hitachi's stature the confidence to invest in the UK in an expanding rail sector," he said.
Hitachi is an engineering and electronics conglomerate with more than 320,000 staff, and its total profit for the last quarter of 2013 reached £725m.
It has a long rail history, making its first steam locomotive in 1920 and an electric version four years later - it also created the famous hi-tech Japanese 'bullet train' in 1964.
Rail has become an increasingly important issue in Britain amid expansion plans and contracts going to foreign firms.
Canadian-owned Bombardier, which has facilities in Derby and Germany, has won a £1bn Crossrail contract for 65 trains on the London line.
Germany's Siemens has also won a £1.6bn deal to build 1,140 state-of-the-art carriages for use on the Thameslink rail line.
France's Alstom Transport is also a major player in Europe's high-speed rail infrastructure.
Britain's rail use has grown significantly in recent decades.
Although it remained roughly static between 1950 and 2000 at 20 billion passenger miles annually, it has nearly doubled since then.