A FAMILY-RUN North-East steel company has been awarded a multi-million pound deal to construct Hitachi Rail Europe's train-building factory.

Shepherd Construction, the main contractor for the project, has given Finley Structures the task of constructing the steel frame of the main factory on the 42,700sqm site at Aycliffe Business Park.

Finley's, based within a mile of the Merchant Park site where Hitachi's new 82m facility is being built, has also won a secondary steelwork package in a huge contract involving a total of 2,000 tonnes of steel.

Neil Matthias, Shepherd's project manager for the Hitachi factory, said the deal showed how the firm was committed to using local companies after appointing Hall Construction of Rushyford-County Durham to carry out the groundworks.

The factory, which will include a research and development centre, is expected to take about 20 months to complete, and will support more than 200 jobs in its construction.

At least 730 workers will be employed at the factory when it opens towards the end of  2015.

Mr Matthias said: "This is great news for the project and for the scheme, and particular John Finley who has been close to the project for a number of years and has worked alongside Shepherd for a number of years within the industry.

"We know Finley Structures will give 100 per cent commitment to the project and look forward to getting started."

Finley Structures, started by managing director John Finley in 2000 and based on Aycliffe Business Park in Newton Aycliffe, has completed a string of high-profile contracts in recent years.

The company has worked with Shepherd Construction on a 1,000-tonne project at Drax Power Station in Selby, North Yorkshire, and the 950-tonne National Renewable Energy Centre (NAREC) in Blyth, as well as a 500-tonne contract at Ercall Wood Technology College in Telford and a 400-tonne job at Daventry Academy, Northampton.

Mr Finley said: "It goes without saying we're proud and absolutely delighted to be given this contract.

"We have a long-standing relationship with Shepherd Construction and we've worked with them on a number of major contracts over the last few years, so we're looking forward to working on what is another flagship project.

"This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When we look back in decades to come we will be to say that we played a part in a project that is so important to the area.

"Hitachi Rail Europe and Merchant Place Developments have said from the very beginning that they will use local suppliers and contractors as much as possible, and clearly this deal means they're sticking to their word.

Darren Cumner, Hitachis Aycliffe plant manager said: "The appointment of Finley Structures for the steelworks contract is excellent news for the region.

"For Hitachi, it is most important that our rail vehicle manufacturing facility is built to the highest quality standards and we are delighted that with Finely Structures, a local company, has been able to answer to these requirements and to secure the contract.

"From the day we decided on Newton Aycliffe as the home for our new train factory, we have time and again seen direct confirmation that companies in the region are more than capable of fulfilling our high quality and reliability standards."

Mr Hunton added: "Merchant Place Developments fully endorse the statement made by Hitachi and are delighted with the appointment of a local North East based company for the steelworks contract which has fully justified our belief in the North East when promoting the benefits of the Newton Aycliffe site.

"Well done to all concerned."

Phil Wilson Sedgefield Labour MP, said: "This is fantastic news for the area and I'm delighted that more local jobs will be supported during the construction of the factory.

"When you have a company like Hitachi prepared to build an 82m facility here, it proves there is great faith in the area, and to see local companies all coming together to work on the project like this is just wonderful."

Meanwhile, Finley Structures has appointed South Durham Draughting, based in South Church, Bishop Auckland, to carry out the detailing of the project.

Finley's has increased its workforce in the last year to cope with a strong order book, up to 60 full-time employees, while its sister company, SCH Site Services, currently employs 34 people, making a total of 94 staff combined.