Several years of speculation came to an end last night as the Government finally gave the green light to a £4.5bn deal that will see trains manufactured in County Durham, with the creation of thousands of new jobs.
Newton Aycliffe is set to become a European hub for train building as it welcomes Japanese manufacturing giant Hitachi into the region, alongside the promise of over 500 jobs initially, and thousands more in the North East supply chain.
Transport Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed the long-awaited plans – which come after a decision process that started several years ago – for a £4.5bn contract with Japanese firm Hitachi to build a fleet of new trains.
He said 500-plus permanent jobs would be based at Hitachi’s new European assembly and manufacturing plant in Newton Aycliffe.
The first trains will roll out of the factory in 2016 and run on the East Coast and Great Western Main Lines.
However, the project is not as grand as the plans originally submitted by the previous Labour Government which had drawn up a £7.5bn scheme to deliver the trains from 2013.
Nevertheless, the news was yesterday hailed as a major boost to a regional economy that is still celebrating last week’s steel takeover on Teesside.
James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, described the deal as ‘phenomenal’ and called on the region to show the same support for Hitachi that it has to Nissan in helping to create a major manufacturing success story in the North East.
“We now have to bring together the businesses that will make up the supply chain so it is not just the 500-plus jobs that are on the site but also the potentially thousands more that will support the Hitachi plant.
“As we saw with Nissan, a home grown supply chain based in the North East increases the economic benefits exponentially and we need to be fit and ready to support Hitachi in every way that we can,” he said.
Stewart Watkins, managing director of County Durham Development Company (CDDC), the strategic investment arm of Durham County Council, said: “This is undoubtedly one of the best pieces of news for the County Durham economy for some time.
“In many ways, this is the perfect project for Newton Aycliffe and the wider County Durham. It is bringing rail manufacturing back to its birthplace, it will contribute significantly towards rebalancing the economy, it is a significant inward investment bringing a global company to the area, there is a strong commitment to apprenticeships and training as well as a hefty positive knock-on effect on indirect jobs.”
Fiona Hall, MEP for the North East, was similarly upbeat saying: “Manufacturing is vital to the North East. It’s one of the things we do best and we should be proud of that. Following on from the Corus sale last Thursday, this announcement caps a very good week for the region.”