CAMPAIGNERS hoping to land a £7.5bn train-building contract for the region have written to the Secretary of State urging him to make a decision.

Members of the Back on Track campaign have told Philip Hammond now is the time to say yes to the Hitachiled Agility Trains consortium.

The Transport Secretary is considering whether to hand the Intercity Express Programme (IEP) to the Japanese manufacturer, which pledged to build a plant in Newton Aycliffe if it gets the go-ahead.

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The letter to the minister was signed by Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson, James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, regional secretary of the Northern Trades Union Congress Kevin Rowan, and Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council.

They point out that the Government said in November that it would make a decision on IEP in the new year.

The letter states: “Next week, Parliament will be in recess – returning on February 28.

“This means a decision will be made in March at the earliest.

The whole of the North- East is asking why the delay?”

It continues: “We believe that we are speaking for the whole of the North-East when we say we need the jobs now; we need your decision now.”

The campaigners say that throughout their dealings with the Government, politics has been put aside and the focus has been on the region’s economic strengths.

The letter states: “We have a very proud history in trainbuilding.

“The first train track between Darlington and Stockton expanded to become a global network.

“We are poised to deliver a dynamic future for the railway network once again. We have the skills, the desire, the energy and the location.”

The letter adds: “This letter is an appeal to you to give the North-East of England the chance to prove what it can do at a time of such economic uncertainty.”

Campaigners say awarding the contract to Agility would help to rebalance the economy by creating 800 private sector jobs.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said a decision on IEP would be made in due course.