A TRAINBUILDER’S £2.75bn ambition to make rolling stock for Britain’s high-speed rail network is proof of its long-term commitment to the North-East, an MP has said.

Phil Wilson said Hitachi Rail Europe’s plans to pick up HS2 work emphasises bosses’ desire to secure its County Durham factory for decades to come.

The company was yesterday (Thursday, November 2) shortlisted alongside four rivals to make 225mph rolling stock for HS2, which the Government says will improve journey times between the north and London.

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The successful firm will design, build and maintain at least 54 trains, which are expected to enter service from 2026 onwards.

Contracts are expected to be awarded in 2019.

Mr Wilson, who endeavoured to unite both sides of the political divide in a campaign supported by local MPs, Durham County Council and industry to bring Hitachi to the region, said the business’ drive should be applauded.

He told The Northern Echo: “They have given a commitment to the North-East and Newton Aycliffe and this proves they are going to do everything they can for the long-term investment in the factory and the town. This is excellent news, and although there is a long way to go, if they are successful it is going to mean a lot of work at the Aycliffe factory.

“It would be good for the skills capacity in the area too, as Hitachi would need more staff, and it would secure the plant into the 2020s and beyond.”

Hitachi, whose back catalogue of high-speed projects includes trains for the Tokaido Shinkansen line, which began service ahead of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, is up against notable rivals for the work.

Alstom Transport, Patentes Talgo SLU and Siemens are on the list, as is Bombardier, with whom Hitachi previously revealed a joint venture to bid for a contract to supply new carriages for the London underground.

Karen Boswell, Hitachi Rail Europe managing director, who was formerly boss at East Coast Trains, said: “Hitachi is delighted to have been selected for the next stage of the rolling stock process for HS2.

We look forward to further developing our proposals for this hugely exciting and important project, which will deliver enormous benefits for the whole of the UK.”

Hitachi’s Aycliffe plant is already overseeing work on rolling stock for the East Coast and Great Western routes under the Government’s InterCity Express Programme.

The first examples of its Great Western fleet entered service last month, with scores of models expected to be introduced between now and the end of 2018.

The business is also making trains for the ScotRail franchise, with the 100mph commuter trains, known as Class 385s, due to run on electrified lines between Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as routes covering Stirling, Alloa and Dunblane.

Work on East Coast stock is expected to ramp up next year, while Hitachi’s order book also includes a deal to supply the FirstGroup TransPennine Express franchise, which links the North-East with Manchester and Scotland, with 19 five-car trains from 2019.