THE project that brings train building back to the cradle of the railway will take some major strides forward in the coming weeks, The Northern Echo can reveal.
First on the agenda for Japanese manufacturer Hitachi will be the appointment of its first member of staff from the North-East and a move into new offices.
Last July, Hitachi confirmed it would construct a factory in this region after it won a £4.5bn order from the Department for Transport to build the next generation of high speed intercity trains. The deal will see 730 workers employed at the Newton Aycliffe, County Durham plant when it opens in 2015. Hitachi is bidding for other train-building contracts in the UK and mainland Europe.
On Monday, the firm will establish its first permanent North-East base at the Xcel Centre, which is adjacent to the site where the new factory will be built. Procurement category manager Paula Whitehead, who hails from Aycliffe, will be based in the offices that will house more Hitachi staff in the coming months. She has joined from Tata Steel in Hartlepool. Her responsibilities will include dealing with the companies that supply parts for the new trains.
She joins Bristol-born Darren Cumner, Hitachi plant manager, who has been working on the landmark project since May 2012. He has been shuttling between Aycliffe and Hitachi's offices in London as he oversees building of the factory and forges links with some of the local schools, colleges and training companies that will supply workers for the plant.
"Having a base in the North-East is another important milestone for us," said Mr Cumner. "It gives Hitachi a place where delegates from Japan can work and monitor progress as well as a base for our growing team here in the region."
The company is also close to appointing the contractor that will carry out archaeological work on the site. Initial surveys of the land have shown evidence of old farm buildings. Next month a team of archaeologists will begin digging on the site before construction work is able to start in the summer.
Mr Cumner, explained: “There are no signs that there was anything of historic significance here. It appears to have been arable land, but this is another essential part of the project."