A TRAIN builder has announced that it has agreed to acquire a technology firm that is pioneering digital technology to optimise railway operations.

Hitachi, which has a site at Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, said the purchase of the Perpetuum firm supports its vision to improve the reliability of thousands of passenger services across the globe, including the 276 Hitachi-built trains running across the UK network.

The announcement follows an £8.5m investment into constructing a new welding and painting facility at its Newton Aycliffe train manufacturing facility.

Hitachi will use Perpetuum’s product which utilises wireless condition monitoring to spot faults and have them fixed before they delay passengers’ journeys.

In fact, none of the 3,000 carriages that are fitted with Perpetuum sensors have ever had critical components fail in service.

Andrew Barr, group chief executive of Hitachi Rail said: “The inclusion of one of the most exciting, pioneering companies in digital asset management is an exciting development for our global mobility business.

“Perpetuum’s data-driven insights will offer further improvements to the service we provide to our customers – leading to better journeys for passengers. It also supports Hitachi’s growth in the digital technologies space, which is becoming increasingly key to our offering – adding value to support our global customer base.”

Once the product is installed on trains, Perpetuum’s self-powering digital sensors will detect on-board vibrations and send back real-time data about the performance of critical train parts – for example wheel sets, gearboxes, motors or bogies – which they say is faster and more accurate than traditional condition-monitoring approaches.

Steve Turley, chief executive of Perpetuum said: “We are very excited to launch this next stage for Perpetuum after the success it has had since entering the railway market less than ten years ago.

“Being part of Hitachi will present vital opportunities that only a global transport giant can offer. We look forward to better supporting our existing and new customers in the future.”

The Southampton-based business already has blue-chip customers across three continents including a number of UK train operating companies.

Its future inclusion as a Hitachi group company creates new opportunities to fit self-powered sensors to the hundreds of trains already serviced around the world by the wider mobility business.

The move by Hitachi Rail marks further direct investment into the UK – at time when the British and Japanese governments are negotiating a free trade agreement.

The transaction will be subject to relevant anti-trust clearance being obtained.

Closing is expected in autumn this year.