A new £1.2bn contract for high-speed trains to be built in the North East will boost the “industrial renaissance” in the region, say business leaders.
A total of 270 carriages will be manufactured by Hitachi Rail Europe at its new factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, as part of the Government’s overall £5.8bn Intercity Express Programme (IEP). Some 730 jobs are predicted.
The trains, the class 800 series, will be running on the East Coast Main Line in 2019, giving passengers more space and faster travel.
Benefits include boosting capacity by 18%, improving train reliability and cutting journey times between London, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh by up to 18 minutes.
North East Chamber of Commerce chief executive James Ramsbotham hailed the move, saying: “Not only is this great news for passengers who regularly use the East Coast Main Line, it is a huge boost to regional manufacturing and a renewed declaration from the Government that it is committed to Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe operation.
“Hitachi’s investment will undoubtedly continue the industrial renaissance that started when Nissan arrived in the North East of England. The scale of investment and the volume of jobs associated with it will have a profoundly positive impact upon our region’s economy.
“The North East is the birthplace of the train; it will be fantastic to once again be UK leaders in this industry.
“The challenge is now to ensure the region has the skills and experience to guarantee Hitachi a long and profitable relationship with the North East.” The order will enhance the factory’s ability to win lucrative rail contracts across Europe and give the UK another runner in the global race to build the world’s best trains.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “By signing this deal we have provided further proof of our determination to transform Britain’s railways into a world-class operation through continued investment and state-of-the-art technology.
“This new order for class 800 series trains is part of the Government’s commitment to invest in our nation’s infrastructure.
This will not only deliver significant benefits to passengers by further slashing journey times and bolstering capacity, but will also stimulate economic growth through improved connectivity between some of Britain’s biggest cities.
This is good news for rail passengers and for British manufacturing.”
Hitachi has recently completed a deal to build its Newton Aycliffe factory with local development firm Merchant Place Developments and has said it will be operational from 2015 with full production starting in 2016.
Last year the Department for Transport agreed an initial order for 596 carriages with Agility Trains, a consortium of Hitachi and John Laing.
As well as building the technologically advanced factory, Hitachi also plans to construct maintenance depots in Bristol, Swansea, west London and Doncaster, and will upgrade maintenance depots in Britain to service the class 800 series.
Hitachi Rail Europe’s executive chairman and chief executive Alistair Dormer said: “This follow-on order by the Department for Transport is great news for passengers on the East Coast Main Line, who can look forward to quicker journeys, travelling on high-quality trains with more seats and passenger space, built to the latest safety standards.
“This order is a tremendous boost for Hitachi Rail Europe’s new factory with its 730 future employees in County Durham and for the British supply chain.”
The factory now has work until the end of the decade and capacity for more.