A glass manufacturer will boost its workforce after winning a five-year deal worth several million pounds to produce parts for the Intercity Express Programme.
Consett-based Romag spent more than a year working towards the lucrative deal with Hitachi Rail Europe, beating off global tenders to sign the preferred contractor agreement, which will see the company supply specialist glass windows for Hitachi Rail Europe’s Class 800/801 high-speed trains.
The two firms said they aim to reach close of the long-term build and support contract soon, but Romag are already working with designers and said delivery of the windows will start in spring 2014.
The windows form part of the Government’s Intercity Express Programme which saw Hitachi Rail Europe securing of a contract to build 270 carriages in a contract worth £1.2bn while also securing and creating a significant number of jobs.
The trains, called the class 800 series, will be operational on the East Coast Main Line from 2019, and will deliver significant benefits to passengers including increasing capacity by 18%, improving train reliability, and cutting journey times between London, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh by up to 18 minutes.
Phil Murray, managing director of Romag, said the deal paid testament to the skills and dedication of the workforce, while also demonstrating how North East manufacturers are more than capable of competing on a global level.
As well as sustaining the current 100-strong workforce, Murray said there is great potential to create additional jobs when supplying at full volume.
Murray said: “This is a fantastic success for us. We have been following this opportunity for over a year and this shows that manufacturing in the North East is alive and kicking. Full production doesn’t start for two years, but work has already started with us and with designers in Japan.
“We look forward to working closely as a trusted supplier in the coming years.
“Romag has dedicated considerable resources to developing our bespoke build and support offer to the rail industry and we have experienced significant growth in this market, despite the economic downturn, and with more than 70 years specialist glazing experience, we are well-placed to deliver contracts such as this to both Hitachi and other train builders.”
Jamie Foster, procurement director at Hitachi Rail Europe, said: “This is a great day for us and another example that we are moving at a great pace with this programme.
“Hitachi has always been very clear that only companies that can meet our high-quality standards while offering a competitive cost will be selected to supply to the Class 800/801 trains.
“Romag have consistently demonstrated their commitment to that request, and as a result, I am happy for us to show our commitment to them through this award.”
The Hitachi Rail Europe deal is the latest step of a rapid growth plan at Romag, which was placed into administration in March 2011 after encountering difficult trading conditions, which were compounded by raw material supply and credit issues.
Gentoo bought the assets of the business a month later, saving the jobs of the 160 employees working at the factory at the time, and within months, the firm saw an increase in orders for their high-quality, UK-manufactured solar photovoltaic, security, architectural and transport glass, leading to more jobs being created to meet demands.
Keith Jordan, managing director of Hitachi Rail Europe, added: “Among the many supplier contracts we have now signed with British-based companies, Romag is situated most closely to our new train factory in Newton Aycliffe. We are delighted that we are working with local companies that can supply to the high-quality requirements we need to build highly-reliable, comfortable trains for the UK in the UK.”