Siemens Mobility, the Germany-based engineering and manufacturing firm, confirmed its intention to “assemble” at least 80 trains at its UK plant, which is currently in final construction and recruitment phases.
Despite a turbulent year for the UK railway sector, Siemens Mobility’s joint CEO for UK and Ireland, and managing director of rolling stock, Sambit Banerjee told sector media the firm’s plans were still solid.
“All our future [UK] orders we will do out of Goole,” he said.
Goole, in East Yorkshire, will host a Siemens “rail village” including manufacturing facilities along with a “research and innovation centre” that will be jointly run by the firm and the University of Birmingham. The education institution was recently awarded £15m ($18.9m) for its extension to the site.
But the UK railway industry has been rocked by waves of uncertainty in the second half 2023.
First, a long-expected but equally long-awaited decision to cut the High Speed 2 project in half was confirmed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. This had major knock-on effects, including a sharp drop in supply-side industry confidence.
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Respondents to an independent poll cast for the Railway Industry Association found only 24% of respondents assess the industry as growing in 2024, compared to 54% who think the sector will contract.
The uncertainty over HS2 has also been partly blamed for the dire situation at Alstom’s Litchurch Lane factory in Derby, UK. After months of speculation, the rolling stock manufacturer confirmed it would be consulting on 1,300 redundancies due to a lack of confirmed orders for the site past the first quarter of 2024.
But Banerjee said Siemens Mobility’s decision was part of a long-term plan, and Goole is hoped to become a “global hub” for its rolling stock and railway activity.
“We took our time. We think there is a place for all in the UK market,” Banerjee said.
He explained: “all our future orders we will do out of Goole… But Goole is just not a manufacturing facility, it’s a rail village.
“We are working with the University of Birmingham on phase two, where we want to work on research development and digital technology. We want to Goole to be a global hub for digital services.”
Banerjee said the project had been delayed by global events (“We had Covid between, we had the Ukraine war when material supply became difficult”) but would begin production in 2024.
The joint CEO said there was potential for a testing facility to be built at the site, but the decision-making process was ongoing.
“We are working at the moment, also to see if we can make a small test track for dynamic commissioning.”
Siemens Mobility clarified the final number of units to be assembled at Goole is not set, and will depend on manufacturing timetables.