A NORTH-EAST train factory for Hitachi could be the Japanese technology giant’s “springboard” for winning further contracts throughout Europe.
A Newton Aycliffe site is one of three UK locations in the running for Hitachi Rail Europe’s facility to build trains for the InterCity Express Programme (IEP), in a move that could create 500 jobs and hundreds more in the supply chain.
Business leaders have dubbed the rolling stock facility, which will cost Hitachi up to £100m, the “new Nissan” because of its potential impact on the region’s economy.
Stockton South MP James Wharton has written to Transport Secretary Philip Hammond backing the bid to bring the factory to the region.
Agility Trains, a consortium of Hitachi Rail Europe and project operations leader John Laing, was named the preferred bidder for the IEP in 2009.
The programme, to replace the decades-old fleet on the East Coast Mainline and Great Western Line, is the UK’s most significant investment in rolling train stock for more than 30 years.
It was put on hold by former Transport Secretary Lord Adonis, but is to be included in the coalition Government’s autumn spending review.
Agility Trains would build and maintain up to 1,400 carriages in a long-term contract that was initially price-tagged £7.5bn, marking Hitachi’s first big train order outside Japan.
“The Newton Aycliffe site ticks all the boxes,” said a spokesperson for Hitachi Rail Europe. “From good rail and road access, higher than normal electric power availability, a good labour pool and a site that is a good size and layout.
“Should we be in a position to establish this rolling stock manufacturing and assembly facility, this would not only be for the UK market.
“In the long run, we are looking for customers in the UK and Europe and would use our presence in the UK as a springboard for winning further contracts throughout Europe.
“This would have a huge impact on regional jobs, economy and the UK supply chain.
“And with a huge order like the IEP, we’d ideally want to source suppliers on our doorstep. Our plans are very mature, we want to start as soon as we get the go-ahead from Government.”
Mr Wharton said: “Along with Stockton, Darlington is the birthplace of the passenger railway and perfectly placed to host Hitachi’s proposed manufacturing facility.
“This investment would bring jobs, helping sustain our manufacturing base.”