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Building HS2’s Trains. Who Will Win the £2.75bn Race?

  • Publish Date: Posted about 3 years ago
  • Author: Jessica Tabinor

There has been a lot of speculation on who is going to build the 225mph trains for HS2 which are expected to come into service in 2026. It is believed that the chosen company will design, build and will also have the responsibility of maintaining the trains once they are in service. 


Five train-builders have made the shortlist for the £2.75bn HS2 contract, which is set to be the largest rail contract ever awarded. Rail minister, Paul Maynard said, the project will create “thousands of skilled British jobs and apprenticeships”. Whoever wins the contract will build at least 54 high-speed trains which are required to deliver “unparalleled levels of reliability, speed and comfort”. The very first trains are expected to roll off the production line by 2020.

In total it is believed that the cutting-edge HS2 project will create approximately 25,000 jobs and 2,000 apprenticeships. 

The shortlisted companies so far are: 


Siemens is yet to have the facilities to manufacture the trains in the UK, however CEO, Joe Kaeser has stated that a factory will be built should they win the bid. However, recent news of the merger with Alstom could solve that problem if the two companies decide to combine their resources.


Built in 2015, Hitachi’s 127,500m² manufacturing plant at Newton Aycliffe, County Durham has the capacity to build high-speed trains with a maximum output of 35 vehicles per month. The Japanese manufacturer built the Class 395 “Javelin” for HS1 so has a wealth of experience in this particular field.


The French firm, Alstom has a 13,000m² manufacturing facility in Widnes, Cheshire. The site has been labelled as the largest rolling stock modernisation facility in the country and is currently the home to a €28 million contract repainting 56 Pendolino trains for Virgin Trains. 


The Spanish manufacturer Talgo currently has no manufacturing plant but it is believed that the company is exploring locations close to Leeds or Liverpool. Talgo has experience building high-speed trains with the Avril and the 350.


The Canadian company, Bombardier Transportation is currently producing rolling stick for the Crossrail project at its 340,000m² manufacturing facility in Derby. The company currently has an order book of more than 1,500 vehicles which are mainly from the Aventra family.

All five bidders have been invited to tender and contracts are expected to be awarded in 2019.


So we are on the way to finding out who will build the trains for HS2 but do we have the skilled workers to drive the trains?

We spoke to Neil Brayshaw, director of technical training at NCHSR who is trying to change the mindset of what engineering, construction and HS2 is about for young people.

Neil identifies that there is a significant challenge when trying to get young people into STEM subjects when leaving school and moving onto college and university. Many young people are leaving further education without the necessary skills such as leadership, problem solving and teamwork – skills which employers are looking for.

To combat this NCHSR are developing a range of programmes to encourage employers and colleges to talk about apprenticeship programmes, engage with national projects and provide young people with the knowledge and understanding of what skills they need for the future.

We spoke to Neil about the project:

“I’ve got a pink train here (the #Brumstar), where you can put on a headset and drive from Euston to Paris. That’s exciting to me! Imagine for a 6-year-old how fantastic that would be. For them to go away and say ‘I’ve been in the pink train today’ I think that will stay with them for a long time. Rather than looking at it in a book or on a screen they can go in there and drive the train.”

To find out more about the initiative and to see an exclusive tour of the train, watch the video here.

Visit our dedicated HS2 page to keep up to date with the latest news and views from the project. Or, to see a timeline of the major HS2 milestones, click here.