A NORTH-EAST train builder is in the running for a multi-million pound contract to build a new fleet of trains for the Tyne and Wear Metro.

Newton Aycliffe-based Hitachi has joined forces with Spencer Group, based in Hull, in a bid to secure a £500m contract to build new trains and a maintenance depot.

From 2022, the existing metro fleet will be replaced with brand new high technology trains and maintained at a newly-constructed site at Gosforth, Newcastle.

The trains will serve a network which carries more than 36 million passengers, connecting Sunderland, Newcastle and surrounding communities across the North East.

The two firms have worked together previously, when Spencer Group successfully upgraded existing East Coast main line rail depots ready for Hitachi’s new intercity trains.

Ross Nagle, chief operating officer for manufacturing at Hitachi, said: “Our train building team in the North-East is delivering truly world class trains already carrying millions of passengers around the country.

"We are now working hard to secure more orders, so our investment in the North-East economy will continue to be felt across the region and with our local suppliers.”

Hitachi has invested over £100m in its train factory in Newton Aycliffe supporting thousands of jobs across the region and beyond, as well as creating over 700 permanent jobs at the factory.

The firm is currently building the pioneering new intercity trains which will soon connect Newcastle to London, Scotland, Manchester and Liverpool.

Spencer Group has delivered over £85m of projects within the North East, which has included extensive work at Heaton Depot to upgrade the facility for the arrival of Hitachi’s new intercity trains as part of the Intercity Express Programme, as well as a biomass handling facility at the Port of Tyne, which created over 200 construction jobs for the region.

The engineering specialist employs 300 people in the North, including at its headquarters in Hull.

Gary Thornton, managing director of Spencer Group, said: “Our partnership with Hitachi to bid for the contract with Tyne and Wear Metro builds on our successful relationship delivering major rail projects.

"Together we offer a compelling proposition of complementary engineering expertise that will deliver unrivalled benefits to the client and value to the economy of the North.”

The first batch of new trains constructed at Newton Aycliffe factory entered passenger service in 2017 as part of the Government’s £5.7bn Intercity Express Programme, and the firm still expects almost 300 trains will be in operation by 2021.