As we approach the year end, we thought we’d take a quick look back at some of the top manufacturing and engineering news of 2015.
We started 2015 with the great news that the new Hitachi Class 800 trains were being introduced into the UK rail network with testing due to start in the spring of 2015. That wasn’t the only good news. In addition to the new stock entering the UK network the bulk of the fleet was also going to be manufactured here in the UK with a new facility being built in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham. The factory which represents and £82bn investment was completed on schedule in September 2015 and has resulted in 730 new jobs in the area.
More rail news followed in February with the introduction of the battery powered train services between the Harwich International and Manningtree stations in Essex. The Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit (IPEMU) project was so successful that it won an award in June at the 2015 Railway Industry Innovation Awards. Testing went on throughout the year and it’s hoped there will be further updates in the New Year.
The Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project finally received development consent after 3 years of consultation, impact assessments and planning. The project which aims to be the first man made energy generating lagoon in the world aims to start work at the site in the Autumn of 2016.
Tunnelling was a topic regularly in the news this year. After 3 years of constant tunnelling the Crossrail tunnel linking rail services from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbeywood in the east, finished in June. Whilst the tunnelling is finished the civil engineering work of platform construction and station building will continue until the end of 2017.
As one tunnel was completed another began with the Thames Tideway Project getting underway. Preliminary construction begins in 2016 with the tunnelling starting in 2017.
Electric vehicles are always in the headlines whether they have drivers or not. This year we’ve seen testing of autonomous vehicles and huge improvements in the electric car market. Batteries have improved so that charges last longer, vehicles can go further and increased numbers of charging points along our motorways have been promised. Taking things one step further was the announcement in August of the completion of a feasibility study into charging as you go on UK roads. As yet, there have been no further announcements as to when the trials will begin. Watch this space.
UK manufacturing has been holding its own with regular good news in economic reports. However, concern still remains over the skills gaps in the UK and the lack of new engineers into industry. This is a topic that has caused concern for many years and will be a huge issue for UK manufacturing if it’s not resolved. Efforts are being made to encourage more students into engineering and also to generally improve the skills of those leaving education. More apprenticeships are on offer and businesses are forging links with secondary schools, colleges and universities in an effort to attract more students in. Only time will tell if these efforts are successful or whether it’s all too little too late.
Well, that’s a roundup of some of the top stories of 2015 and we’ll keep you updated on progress in these areas throughout the New Year as well as all other new and innovating things in 2016.