Warwickshire-based Vivarail, a manufacturer of ‘eco-friendly’ passenger trains, has accelerated the expansion of its site in County Durham and turned it into a national R&D centre, creating new jobs faster than expected.
The company opened the new plant in Seaham in December 2017 to complement its main site at Long Marston (near Stratford-upon-Avon) and to tap into the North East’s pool of skilled rail industry workers.
It received support from Business Durham (the economic development organisation for County Durham).
The workforce was originally expected to grow to 30 over three years, but the availability of experienced staff has enabled it to reach that milestone in just over a year since the site became operational.
) was formed in 2013 to create ‘state of the art’ commuter trains.
Its new Class 230 train, which is fitted with cutting-edge technology and offers lower fuel consumption and low emissions, is built from high-quality lightweight aluminium bodyshells, with Bombardier Flex 1000 bogies taken from early-retired stock.
By re-using these parts, Vivarail has saved hundreds of tonnes of metal from being scrapped as well as the resources and energy needed to build new bogies from scratch.
The company’s first passenger trains went into service in April 2019 on the Marston Vale line between Bedford and Bletchley; they are operated by West Midlands Trains and have air-conditioning systems developed at Seaham.
The County Durham site was selected as the location to assemble power units (these use batteries or draw on electricity from a third rail or an overhead cable; there is the option of a diesel drive for hybrid trains).
However, Vivarail’s managers were so impressed by the calibre of recruits in the North East that they have made it their main R&D centre.
Seaham is now also working on the complex electrical wiring that forms the nerve system of its new trains and air-conditioning units; the plan is to use it as the location to refurbish train bogies.
Company founder and chief executive Adrian Shoote, said: “Moving to County Durham and having the flexibility to add another unit has allowed us to expand our business more quickly than planned.
“It gives us access to a pool of talented workers, including engineers, technicians and fitters.”