Hitachi partners with Global Centre of Rail Excellence to accelerate sustainable tech adoption

3 mins read

Hitachi Rail and the Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE) have signed an agreement to test the latest in rail technology, including new trains and battery technology, at GCRE’s world-leading testing facility in Wales.

The news follows Hitachi Energy winning a competitive tender to provide a static frequency converter to manage the power grid and provide energy security at GCRE.

As part of the new agreement, Hitachi will use GCRE’s £400m facility to test future rolling stock and its pioneering battery technology, which has been co-developed with Sunderland’s Turntide, which provides electrification and powertrain components.

Hitachi and GCRE also see the opportunity to make the testing site a hub for digital rail technology by testing both digital signaling 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 the next stages of development, which include using AI to predict areas at risk of a fault and worthy of preventative maintenance.

Furthermore, Hitachi has 187 intercity trains in passenger service with European Train Control System (ETCS). The new partnership creates an opportunity to test future upgrades of ETCS to ensure a seamless transition in digital signaling.

GCRE to accelerate technology adoption

Currently, testing new technology takes place on the existing UK rail network. Understandably, track access and testing time is restricted so passengers are not affected. The GCRE facility increases flexibility and opportunities to conduct testing, shortening the timeline to improve and validate new innovations. GCRE will help modernize the railway by closing the gap between development and adoption.

The GCRE is a purpose-built rail innovation center 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 the UK and European market. Currently, there is 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.

Hitachi Energy’s energy security expertise

Traction supplies for railways can present unique challenges to the electrical network. The use of Hitachi Energy’s static frequency converters (SFC) eliminates these challenges and provides a stable supply to the rolling stock. It also enables the use of renewable energy and supports the GCRE project to become the UK’s first net-zero railway.

For more than 40 years, Hitachi Energy’s technology has been the reference for railway applications with a proven solution for railway grids. Its pioneering technology and innovative control algorithms have enabled the transition toward a modern railway grid fed by SFC, granting its stability and performance.

The converter hardware and control software of the SFC, which was selected by GCRE, cover the special needs of railway applications. In fact, the mechanical design and containerized housing ensure the reduction of footprint, onsite risks, and installation time, while at the same time making sure components are easily accessed to facilitate maintenance and trouble shooting. In addition, it provides flexibility of layout to optimize the site parameters.

Jim Brewin, head of UK & Ireland at Hitachi Rail, said: “This partnership reinforces Hitachi’s commitment to UK innovation and supply chain, which has already seen us spend over £2.6 billion in the UK since 2015.

“Through this initial agreement, we’re proud to help GCRE realize its potential and ambition to become a global hub for rail innovation. Being able to test British trains and technology at the test loop in Wales will ultimately benefit both rail passengers and the UK economy,” Brewin added.

Chief Executive of the Global Centre of Rail Excellence Simon Jones, added, “Agreeing this deal with Hitachi is a big moment for 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 caliber and the quality of clients that we will be working with at our facility.

“What is particularly pleasing is the message that this sends to the whole industry about the credibility and attractiveness of the GCRE offer.

“As part of this agreement, it’s also very pleasing to announce that Hitachi will provide the Static Frequency Converter needed to condition the energy which we need to electrify what will become the UK’s first net-zero railway. It’s a critical piece of infrastructure for our site, is representative of the type of technology which will be needed to electrify the UK’s railway more easily and we are delighted to be working with Hitachi to secure it,” Jones concluded.