With a fleet of 29 high speed trains to maintain, it’s no wonder Hitachi Rail in Ashford work around the clock 24-7, 365 days of the year.

The impressive Hitachi Rail Depot in Ashford is a ten-minute walk from the town centre and just a stones-throw from the International Station. But with its stead-fast security it’s hard to guess what goes on in the Hitachi Rail centre, unless you’re a whiz in the railway industry with a secure ID card.

We went along to meet fleet manager Nigel, to get down to the nuts and bolts.

Can you tell loveashford how long you have worked for Hitachi Rail?

I’ve worked here for 4 and a half years now, before that I was with the London Underground for thirteen years.

When did Hitachi Rail come to Ashford?

The depot opened in 2007, it was the first Hitachi Rail train maintenance centre to be built in the UK and still stands as the flagship depot for the nation.

Can you explain to us what happens here at the depot?

We monitor a fleet of 29 high speed trains, all with 6 carriages each. These trains reach speeds of up to 140mph and carry thousands of people every day. There’s no use waiting for them to break and need fixing, we maintain these trains on a constant cycle, 24-7 365 days of the year to ensure that doesn’t happen.

We are responsible for carrying out daily checks on things such as signalling and breaks but also the more labour intensive jobs too like fitting larger components.

How many people do you employ here?

There are currently 116 members of staff here.

How has Hitachi Rail benefited the local community?

Since my time here, the company has grown and is still expanding at an exciting rate. As long a South Eastern Railway has a demand for more trains, there will be more jobs available to local people.

All of our members of staff come from within a 40 mile radius of the site, most of them from the immediate local areas. It’s part of our corporate social responsibility as a company to employ people from the local area in a bid to give back to the community.

We look for people of course with suitable qualifications, but also those with the right attitude for the job.

A lot of the materials we use for our maintenance work is sourced locally too. Of the 332 registered suppliers we use, 28 of those are companies local to Ashford.

Do you offer apprenticeship programmes?

Yes, we offer 2 apprenticeship placements every 2 years on a 4 year-long programme.

We have guys who go out to the local schools to talk about our engineering roles and the apprenticeship placements to encourage more young people to consider this field of work.

Can you tell us a little about Hitachi Rail’s plans for the future?

There are 3 key projects in the pipeline. The first is the Intercity Express Programme to replace the trains on the Great Western Main Line and the East Coast Main Line. The second is to provide the ScotRail franchise, Edinburgh to Glasgow service with 70 new trains, and the third key project is to provide a fleet of new trains to the South West of England. So there’s lots going on and lots to look forward to.

To find out more about the exciting growth of Hitachi Rail and the Ashford depot, visit their website.

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