Hitachi InterCity Express train nose

Hitachi Rail UK partnership with Global Centre of Rail Excellence

Hitachi intercity express trainORR

Hitachi Rail UK is set to test new British-built trains, battery technology and digital solutions at a world-leading testing facility in Wales. Hitachi will use the Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE), a new 400-million pound (about 460 million euro) facility to test future rolling stock. It will also help refine Hitachi’s battery technology, which has been co-developed with the UK arm of Turntide, an electrification technology developer, based in Sunderland. Hitachi and GCRE are collaborating to make the South Wales site a hub for digital rail technology by testing both digital signalling and infrastructure monitoring solutions.

Hitachi has developed digital solutions that can automate track, overhead lines and vegetation monitoring, to pinpoint faults and reduce costs. GCRE can support next stages of development, which include using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to predict areas at risk of a fault and worthy of preventative maintenance. Hitachi has 187 intercity trains in passenger service with European Train Control System (ETCS), this creates an opportunity to test future upgrades of ETCS to ensure a seamless transition in digital signalling.

GCRE to accelerate technology adoption

The GCRE is a purpose built rail innovation centre being constructed in South Wales that will provide a site for world class research, testing and certification of rolling stock, infrastructure and innovative new rail technologies.
The site will provide services for a UK and European market, in partnership with Hitachi and Turntide. According to the Centre, there is currently no dedicated, purpose built facility for rail infrastructure testing in Europe, nor is there a railway test loop of this scale anywhere in the UK.

Sky view of the site of Global Centre of Rail Excellence in South Wales
Sky view of the site of Global Centre of Rail Excellence
in South Wales (GCRE image)

Currently, testing new technology takes place on the existing UK rail network. Track access and testing time is restricted to minimise the interference with revenue-earning freight and passenger traffic. The GCRE facility increases flexibility and opportunities to conduct testing, shortening the timeline to improve and validate new innovations. According to a joint statement, the test facilities at GCRE will help modernise the railway by closing the gap between development and adoption.

Demonstrate the calibre and the quality

According to the partners, testing Hitachi’s cutting edge rail technology will help create a new digital skills-base at Welsh site, and support jobs in the wider supply chain. “The Global Centre of Rail Excellence that we are constructing in south Wales will be a site for world class rail and infrastructure innovation”, said Simon Jones, Chief Executive of the Global Centre of Rail Excellence. “To secure such an important and globally significant partner to undertake their testing and research on site clearly demonstrates the calibre and the quality of clients that we will be working with at our facility.”

Hitachi’s energy division is also using the centre. With electrification of the UK network a critical path to net zero carbon in the economy, applications with a proven solution for railway power supply will be vital. The use of Hitachi static frequency converters (SFC) eliminates many power supply and delivery challenges, and provides a stable supply to the rolling stock. It also enables the use of renewable energy and supports the GCRE project towards a net-zero railway.

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Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is UK correspondent for and

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