THE NORTH-EAST is open for business, was the message to a delegation who this week got a glimpse inside Hitachi's £82m train factory.

More than 50 representatives from the construction industry took advantage of an open event at the Hitachi Rail Europe site in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham to see progress on the £82m project.

The event, hosted by main contractor Shepherd Construction and supported by Hitachi Rail, was organised jointly by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and Constructing Excellence North East (CENE) and showcased how far the project has come in such a short time.

Geoff Hunton of Merchant Place Developments gave the audience an insight into the journey and vision for the Merchant Park site and the efforts that were made to make Aycliffe Hitachi’s number one choice.

Mr Hunton said: “The project demonstrates what can be achieved by all parties working together from the public and private sectors in the lead up to the contract and now with Shepherds, Hitachi and Merchant.

“It is a development of which the North-East can be justly proud but, more importantly, it provides new opportunities for apprentices and graduates in construction and engineering.

“From Merchant’s view the Hitachi facility provides a catalyst to make Newton Aycliffe Business Park the largest park in the north and a springboard for regeneration not only of the rail and construction industry but many other sectors.

“The North-East is open for business,” added Mr Hunton.

Mark Kilcran of Shepherd, which is leading construction at the site, presented a few facts about the project before the visitors were given a tour of the building.

Paul Young, the chair of CIOB Tees Valley and Shepherd bid manager based at its Darlington office, said: “It is great to be able to show our peers what we have been up to this year as the factory begins to take shape with the shell almost complete and rail being laid both inside the factory and the sidings outside.”

Lesley Fairley, the chair of the CIOB North-East branch, said: “The CIOB host regular events for our members throughout the year and it’s great to have so many industry colleagues join us to visit this great facility during construction.”

Catriona Lingwood chief CENE, said: “We are delighted to be involved in helping to arrange this event with the CIOB North-East.

"CENE supports all areas of the industry working to deliver a better built environment and it was good to see so many taking advantage to attend such an event. It is hoped we can arrange a further visit as the building nears completion next year."

Hitachi's Aycliffe plant, which has contracts to built trains for the Great Western and East Coast lines, is due to start production in 2016.