Schoolchildren get guided tour of new Hitachi Rail factory as it takes shape

Shepherd leads community initiative designed to showcase construction industry and inspire next generation

Greenfield Community College pupils with Shepherds build manager Davy Armstrong at Hitachi Rail Europe's site in Newton Aycliffe
Greenfield Community College pupils with Shepherds build manager Davy Armstrong at Hitachi Rail Europe's site in Newton Aycliffe

North East schoolchildren have been given an exclusive look behind the scenes at one of the region’s most talked about development sites as part of a nationwide initiative to inspire the next generation of construction professionals.

Shepherd, which won the contract to build Hitachi Rail Europe’s vehicle manufacturing facility in Newton Aycliffe, led a guided tour of the landmark project for 36 pupils from Durham Johnston Comprehensive School and Greenfield Community College.

The event formed part of the national Open Doors Weekend, a collaborative effort on behalf of the industry to present construction in an engaging way, showcase the career opportunities it has to offer and demonstrate the importance of the sector to the economy.

Members of the wider community were also invited to visit the site the following day.

Paul Kennedy, a teacher at Durham Johnston, said: “The Open Doors site visit is a unique opportunity for our pupils to see what goes on behind the scenes at a live construction project.

“The Hitachi development is among the most important in the region and it’s a fantastic experience for the children to be able to see it for themselves.

Students from Greenfield Community College with teacher Michael Flatman, left, and Shepherds build manager Davy Armstrong at Hitachi Rail Europe's site in Newton Aycliffe
Students from Greenfield Community College with teacher Michael Flatman, left, and Shepherds build manager Davy Armstrong at Hitachi Rail Europe's site in Newton Aycliffe

“They have really enjoyed the tour and I’m sure many of them will come away inspired to become a part of the construction industry and contribute to projects like this in the future.”

Scheduled for completion in mid-2015, the new Hitachi site will serve as one of the group’s primary European facilities for train manufacturing and assembly.

It will be the base for the manufacture of the new Great Western Main Line (GWML) and East Coast Main Line (ECML) trains the company is building for the Government’s Intercity Express Programme (IEP).

Representing an £82m investment that will reinforce Britain’s train manufacturing capability, it is regarded as a prime example of the UK construction industry’s importance to both the national and North East economies.

Neil Matthias, construction director at Shepherd, said: “It’s been a pleasure to welcome members of the local community onto the site this weekend and show them the ground-breaking and technically complex work that we are doing in collaboration with our on-site partners.

“At Shepherd, we understand that construction isn’t just about physical structures but also about creativity, history, sustainability and community legacy. Initiatives like the Open Doors Weekend help bring these ideas to life and inspire the next generation of construction professionals.”

“We are committed to fuelling the pipeline of young local talent, to help ensure that our business remains future-proof and that regional investment translates into local recruitment.”

Now in its third year, the Open Doors Weekend is the result of a partnership of leading industry bodies, UK Construction Group, Scottish Contractors Group, Construction Industry Training Board, The Considerate Constructors Scheme and the Chartered Institute of Building.

The vehicle manufacturing facility was one of 75 participating sites across the UK.

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