BOSSES at train company Hitachi Rail Europe have been delighted by the high calibre of local people applying for jobs at their soon-to-open County Durham factory.

Almost 80 staff now work for the Newton Aycliffe firm, but that number will rise to 100 by Christmas, and around April next year, as train production starts to ramp up, 300 to 400 staff will work at the £82m factory site. More than 700 hundred will work there when full production starts.  

The company has been deluged by applicants for jobs ranging from posts in human resources to quality inspection. Despite concerns about skills shortages in many industries Hitachi says it has encountered no problems in sourcing the right people.

“Everything is on track and the building looks stunning,” plant manager Darren Cumner told The Northern Echo, as he prepared to start taking on specialist manufacturing staff.

“Most of the people we have recruited so far are from the Aycliffe and Darlington areas. We have been really impressed by those whom we have seen.

“It is particularly pleasing to not step outside of the area for talent. In my experience people who live close by have an affinity for the plant. It is like having a football ground in a town centre. It creates a stronger bond than having people who commute from 50 or 60 miles away.

Hitachi recently held recruitment events for apprentices which will lead to five joining in September, adding to the four who are about to complete their first year’s training with the manufacturer. The training of staff and apprentices has been taking place at South West Durham Training (SWDT), on Aycliffe Business Park, a few hundred metres from the Hitachi plant.

The Hitachi team based in offices at SWDT and Aycliffe’s Xcel centre and will start moving into purpose-built offices inside the new factory in the coming weeks.  

The plant will produce high speed trains to replace the old rolling stock that runs on the East Coast and Great Western routes, as well as commuter trains that link Edinburgh to Glasgow.

Construction company Shepherd, which has bases in Darlington, Newcastle and York, has led the factory build. Site managers report that everything is on schedule for the keys to be handed over to Hitachi this autumn.