Hitachi eyes expanding N. America train business with new U.S. plant

Japanese industrial conglomerate Hitachi Ltd. is gearing up to expand its train system business in North America with the ongoing construction of a new assembly plant in Maryland.

Hitachi held a groundbreaking ceremony last week for the plant in Hagerstown, Maryland, following its facilities in Florida and South Carolina that manufacture trains and signal systems.

The new plant being built in a $70 million project is near the U.S. capital, where many train cars produced by Japan's Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. are already running in the subway system.

Hitachi has signed a deal with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the subway's operator, to deliver up to 800 cars and plans to begin producing the advanced 8000-series model in 2024. The new fleet will replace the 2000- and 3000-series that have serviced Washington and the vicinity since the 1980s, according to Hitachi.

Andrew Barr, CEO of Hitachi Rail Ltd., recently told Kyodo News, "We chose the site in Maryland because it offers great links to transportation in Washington D.C. and the wider northeastern area."

In Canada, Hitachi has already made contracts for orders including signal system maintenance for a planned train system with entities such as an Ontario provincial government affiliate.

Barr also said Hitachi is eager to supply train cars to be produced at the Maryland plant for the Ontario train system, which will be in service in 2024.

According to Hitachi's plan, the Maryland facility will be 166,000 square meters with test tracks 730 meters in length. The company expects to create 1,300 new jobs in the area.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said at the groundbreaking ceremony, "The job creation potential and associated economic development benefits are an absolute game changer for this region and for the entire state."

© Kyodo News