Alstom unveils £21m advanced train centre

Rail transport manufacturer, Alstom has officially opened its new landmark centre for train modernisation, expected to create upwards of 600 jobs.

Alstom's new centre for train modernisation in Widnes - image courtesy of Alstom.
Alstom’s new centre for train modernisation in Widnes – image courtesy of Alstom.

With more than 13,000 sqm of space, the Widnes (Cheshire) site is reportedly the UK’s largest and most sophisticated centre for train modernisation.

Described as being a significant boost to the rai industry in the North West of the country, the centre is expected to embrace advanced technologies such as virtual reality.

Initially, the site will provide rolling stock maintenance contracts and modernisation work. Long-term, it potentially gives Alstom the capacity to build trains in Britain.

Officially opened by Lord Prior of Brompton, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at BEIS, the site will soon start work on a €28m contract to repaint the Pendolino fleet of 56 Class 390 ‘tilting’ trains used by Virgin on the West Coast Main Line. The first Pendolino train is in the modernisation halls.

The repainting team is 80-strong and includes five new apprentices who will work on the project. The contract will involve virtual reality painting simulators that the team will be trained on and will use to validate the work.

Alongside the technology centre, Alstom is due to open its new North West Transport Training Academy in September with the aim of building its very own rail campus.

The academy is designed to inspire a new generation of engineers and give them the skills needed to lead the UK rail sector in the future, as well as supporting the upskilling of the existing workforce.

Gian-Luca Erbacci, senior vice-president of Alstom Europe, explained: “We have a team of 80 people in place to deliver our first contract, repainting the beautiful Pendolino trains and that includes five new apprentices, showing our commitment to skills.

“We want this to be just the start of our story in Widnes. We have already committed that if we win contracts like Transport for London’s Deep Tube Programme, we will build the new trains here, and we look forward to the Alstom Training Academy opening in September.”

Alstom has been at the heart of the UK’s rail industry for more than 100 years, having built approximately one third of the UK’s rail vehicles and half of the trains currently operating on the London Underground.