SECURING the Intercity Express Programme is a "launch pad" that could secure train-building work for generations to come, the managing director of Hitachi Rail Europe said last night.

Alistair Dormer spoke to The Northern Echo of his "absolute delight" after Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announced that the £4.5bn deal would go to the Hitachi-led Agility Trains consortium.

He said: "It's been a long time coming, but we've always been very confident in the product we were offering and the service we were offering.

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"This is the right thing for intercity services in the UK and we are delighted to be establishing a manufacturing centre in the North-East."

More than 100 trains will be built for the Great Western and East Coast lines as part of the 30-year contract.

However, Mr Dormer added: "This is our launch pad - this is enables us to compete for a lot more work not just in the UK but in Europe."

He revealed that work on the huge assembly plant in Newton Aycliffe will begin next year.

Two hundred jobs will be created during the construction phase.

Training of the 500-strong workforce will start in 2014 and the trains will enter manufacturing in 2015.

He said a range of positions would be created at the plant.

"We are hoping to include a research and development area within the facility, jobs involved in the design and engineering aspect of manufacturing trains and semi-skilled jobs working on manufacturing jobs."

The managing director also talked of developing links with local suppliers.

"We would encourage our supply chain to be near us very similar to the success story of Nissan," he added.

Mr Dormer thanked The Northern Echo and the Back on Track campaign, including Phil Wilson MP, the North East Chamber of Commerce, Durham County Council, Unite the Union and the Federation of Small Businesses for raising the profile of the company's bid.

"I think this has been very important in getting this big decision," he added.