A NORTH-EAST train factory has lost out on a £1bn contract to supply Europe’s biggest construction project.
Hitachi’s factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham was told this morning that rivals, Bombardier, had won the deal to make trains for the new Crossrail commuter line being built across London.
The decision is a blow to the Japanese firm which will open its £82m Aycliffe plant in 2016, employing 730 workers.
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However, the firm has enough work on its books to keep its staff busy until at least 2020, and bosses have stressed that the Crossrail deal was one of several deals it hopes to secure in the coming years.
The Government has already awarded it contracts to make high speed trains for the East Coast and Great Western lines.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the announcement was "great news for Bombardier and Derby" while Business Secretary Vince Cable said it was a "real vote of confidence in British manufacturing".
Three years ago Bombardier lost out to Siemens of Germany on a £1.6bn contract for trains for the Thameslink project.
The Siemens victory came amid much controversy and the German company had also been in the running for the Crossrail contract but dropped out last year, leaving Bombardier to face Hitachi of Japan and CAF of Spain.
The deal, announced today by the Department for Transport and Transport for London, means 65 trains will be built in Derby, with the contract supporting 760 UK manufacturing jobs and 80 apprenticeships.
It also involves the construction of a maintenance depot at Old Oak Common in north-west London which will create 244 jobs and 16 apprenticeships. When fully operational it will support 80 jobs to maintain the new fleet of trains.
Each Crossrail train will be 200 metres long and able to carry up to 1,500 passengers. Key features include air conditioning and inter-connecting walk-through carriages. On-train passenger information systems will deliver real-time travel information to allow passengers to plan their onward journeys.
First mooted in the 1990s but then scrapped on cost grounds only to be revived in the last decade, Crossrail will boost Londons rail capacity by ten per cent.
It will run from as far west as Maidenhead in Berkshire, connecting Heathrow, and Abbey Wood in south London, and going as far east as Shenfield in Essex.
At peak times, there will be up to 24 trains an hour between Paddington in west London and Whitechapel in the City of London.
TfL will introduce the new trains from May 2017, with the fleet progressively introduced to the existing rail network well in advance of services commencing through Crossrails central section in December 2018.
Bombardier managing director Francis Paonessa said the company had spent £20m developing the Aventra train which will be built for the Crossrail route and which will be painted purple and black.
He went on: "We are absolutely delighted with the news, which is a real endorsement of the hard work the team has put in. We have been working on the design for the past year.
"The train has wider gangways, is much lighter and more energy efficient."
London mayor Boris Johnson said the trains would revolutionise rail travel in London, and deliver jobs and economic growth in their birthplace in Derby and across the UK.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the contract was great news for British manufacturing and for Derbyshire while Bob Crow, leader of the RMT union, said it was a fantastic and deserved result for Bombardier.
Julia Long, national officer for the Unite union said: "This is great news for the workforce at Bombardier and for Derby, after the disastrous handling of the Thameslink contract."