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Transportation

Hitachi train cracks rattle UK high-speed rail networks

Flaws hit mainstay of Japanese company's rail operations

Hitachi's rolling stock plant at Newton Aycliffe, U.K. (Photo by Tomoya Ushiyama)

TOKYO -- Hitachi has taken all of its Class 800 rolling stock out of service after cracks were found in multiple trains in the U.K., disrupting high-speed rail service there and casting a shadow on the Japanese manufacturer's overseas infrastructure business.

The damage to lifting points on the underside of the trains was discovered Saturday during routine inspections. The metal parts are used in hoisting trains for maintenance and have no effect on regular operations, according to Hitachi.

Great Western Railway and London North Eastern Railway trains were removed from service for further inspections, leading to widespread cancellations. Some have returned to operation after final safety checks, but service may not be fully restored until next week.

Overseas operations are crucial for Hitachi's rail business, generating roughly 80% of its revenue.

While the company says it has completed inspections of all rolling stock in the series, the number of trains affected has not been made clear. The cause of the cracks is still under investigation.

Hitachi won an order for 866 trains, mainly Class 800s, and a 27-and-a-half-year maintenance contract in 2011 through the U.K.'s Intercity Express Program. The company provided more than 40% of the rolling stock for the 7.6 billion pound ($10.6 billion at current rates) project.

The Class 800 has a top speed of 201 km per hour, and many can run on non-electrified lines.

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