THE REVIVAL of North-East train building reached a significant milestone today when the Hitachi Rail Europe factory was connected to the national rail network.

In the new year, trains will begin to roll out of the £82m Newton Aycliffe plant and start to replace the ageing rolling stock that runs on the Great Western, and East Coast Main Line. The factory will also make new AT200 commuter trains for Abellio’s ScotRail franchise.

At a ceremony attended by Hitachi and Network Rail bosses, the final pandrol clip, a rail fastening which is used to link rails to railway sleepers, was fitted by Story Contracting to mark the completion of track works and the connection of new track to Hitachi’s plant. Carlisle-based Story has fitted 35,000 pandrol clips on the new track since it began work on the site a year ago.

The landmark project, which will create 730 factory jobs, has also seen the demolition of a bridge, installation of 7,000 metres of sidings and a new 1km long overhead electrified test track, along with the reconfiguration of the existing branch line, and its connection to the site.

Work is now being concentrated on the interior fit-out of the factory, which will include warehousing, offices, and a research and development department.

Simon Turner, project manager at Story Contracting, told The Northern Echo: "It has been fantastic to play a part in bringing train manufacture back to the North-East. To complete this work alongside a live railway demanded a huge level of co-ordination between us all and this has been a significant achievement for Story and our partners."

The work included three periods of 54 hours each, where the rail branch line was taken out of service to allow Story and Network Rail to link the track that runs adjacent to the factory to the rail system.

Phil Verster, Route Managing Director, Network Rail said: “Today’s final fixing signals an important milestone in this exciting project. The Intercity Express Train will bring a step-change for passengers, enabling more and faster journeys. This facility is an achievement in itself and will continue to bring economic benefits to the north east as well as maintaining the region’s proud rail heritage.

Rail Minister Claire Perry, who did not attend the event, sent a message by email which included the comment: “The trains made here will transform passengers’ journeys in the south west and north, with more seats on each train, more services, reduced journey times and improved reliability.”