A SOON-TO-OPEN North-East factory is closing in on a deal to build trains for London commuter lines.
Hitachi Rail Europe today unveiled the first pictures of the commuter train, called the AT200, that it plans to make at its plant near Newton Aycliffe in County Durham.
The Japanese manufacturer has already won deals to make high speed inter city trains at the Aycliffe factory for the East Coast line, which links the North East with London and Scotland, as well as the Great Western route, from spring 2016.
But it also needs to build up its order book to ensure there is sufficient work for its 730 staff in the longer term.
Hitachi has bid to make commuter trains for shorter journeys, such as for the route between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and it has been shortlisted to supply London overground lines used mainly to transport commuters to and from the capital.
"Winning either of these contracts would mean that we would have a much stronger pipeline of work at Aycliffe, which would be great news for us and for the North-East," said a spokesperson for the company, who added that Hitachi expected to hear if it had won the contracts in the coming months.
Hitachi is also bidding to make trains in Aycliffe for railways on the Continent.
The trains made of lightweight aluminium alloy can be produced in formations of between three to 12 carriages. The interiors will include the latest onboard services such as USB and power sockets at every seat for passengers to charge their mobile phones and computers, as well as WiFi.
In the meantime, a North-East video company is documenting construction of the Hitachi Aycliffe factory.
Three Motion is using helicopter mounted cameras to film the site at regular intervals,
Gavin Knights, the firm's commercial director, said "We're delighted to be working with Hitachi over the next fourteen months to document the story of one of the most important construction projects our region has ever seen. There are so many great links to industrial firsts in this region, and we can reach right back to Stephenson’s Rocket for inspiration around this story”.
“The permanent record this project is capturing will be shown all over world, including permanent focus at Hitachi’s head office in Japan, where there is huge interest in this development in the UK and in trains being manufactured here again for the first time for many years.
"Filming from heights of up to 400ft, our Hexacopter will allow viewers to appreciate the scale of this site, and, as construction continues, we will also shoot footage inside the huge production space as it is developed. Incredibly, several complete trains will be built at the same time inside the facility, before they move, first to sidings and then onto British Rail’s mainline track, which runs adjacent to the site. Visually it is hugely impressive and as film makers we will ensure that the story is told with the very best equipment and techniques available in our industry.”