COUNCIL chiefs will make Hitachi’s new £82m train factory the centrepiece of a fresh campaign to attract more businesses and jobs to the region.

The Japanese firm’s huge new plant, which is currently under construction, is creating hundreds of jobs in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, along with thousands more in the supply chain.

Now Durham County Council wants to build on its success in attracting the development to convince other firms to invest in the county.

Loading article content

Today (Wednesday, May 7), the council’s Labour cabinet resolved to make Hitachi the focus of a new business development strategy.

Councillor Neil Foster, the cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “Right across the county and right across the North-East there are opportunities and we can say: ‘Look at what we’ve done with Hitachi; we’ve delivered on the opportunities that have been raised’.

“Businesses themselves, when they’re thinking about locating, the messages they’re getting about Durham are very positive.

“We will do as much as we possibly can to help. We will support you financially and work through the planning structure as much as we possibly can.”

Council leader Simon Henig said it was very exciting to see steel structures going up at the factory, which he said would become operational next year.

“Hopefully we can fill the rest of the site as well and bring in even more jobs to the area.

“Hopefully it can be a catalyst right across the piece. It’s a tremendous story and fantastic for County Durham and for Newton Aycliffe.”

In 2009, when Hitachi Rail Europe (HRE) began searching the UK for a site to build a new factory, County Durham was not even on the shortlist.

However, in May 2012 when HRE – as part of the Agility Trains consortium – was delivered a £5.8bn UK government contract to finance, design, build, maintain and service the next generation of intercity train carriages, the firm announced its base would by Newton Aycliffe’s Amazon Park, since renamed Merchant Park.

At least 730 jobs are being created at the 43,000sq metre development, plus 150 during the current construction phase.

North-East firms have benefitted from supplying the project, including Romag in Consett and Shepherd in Darlington.