A NORTH-EAST train builder faces an "increasingly concerning" future when current orders for new trains run out next spring as there are currently no new orders in the pipeline, a union has warned.

In a letter to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, Unite has warned that workers at Hitachi's Newton Aycliffe factory say the situation is putting "long term investment, jobs and skills at risk".

The firm, which employs about 750 permanent workers, missed out on a contract to manufacture London Underground trains last year, but remains in the running for a multi-million pound contract to build trains for the Tyne and Wear Metro, as well as a £2.75bn contract to make trains for HS2.

Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson, who previously said Hitachi had missed out on a "decade's worth of manufacturing" after losing the Underground contract, said the firm should be awarded contracts ahead of companies without factories as they are "ready for business".

The latest warning comes after Unite signed a recognition agreement covering staff at Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe site, something Mr Wilson supported.

In his letter to Mr Grayling, Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: "Unite and our members in Newton Aycliffe are increasingly concerned that without new work, when Hitachi’s current orders for new trains run out in spring 2020, there are currently no new orders in the pipeline.

"This situation puts long term investment, jobs and skills at risk along with our capacity to build desperately needed rolling stock here in the UK in the future.

"The company has also created a long-term skills legacy through the nearby South Durham University Technical College. However, without a commitment to supporting UK manufacturing from government, these are under threat too."

A Hitachi spokesperson said: "Hitachi is pleased to be working with Unite and our focus remains unchanged – to continue working hard to deliver existing orders, while offering new innovative trains to operators in the UK and abroad as a flexible and agile train builder.

"We have a very active commercial team working hard on a number of new bids, including HS2 and Tyne and Wear metro. We are optimistic that these will provide a pipeline of work for the factory to sustain investment in jobs, skills and the supply chain in the North-East."