THE future of a North-East train builder is “being put at risk”, it has been claimed, after it emerged the firm is set to miss out on a £500m deal to build a new fleet of Tyne and Wear Metro trains – with the contract being awarded to a Spanish firm.

The Northern Echo understands Hitachi has been overlooked by Nexus, the public body which owns and manages the Tyne and Wear Metro, to design, build and maintain the new fleet of trains.

The revelation is a fresh blow for the Newton Aycliffe-based firm, which has been struggling for orders in recent months after it missed out on a contract to build 94 new Deep Tube trains to serve the London Underground’s Piccadilly line, which was also awarded to a firm who will carry out the work overseas.

Last night, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said it was an “appalling decision” and described the move to award the contract to a foreign company as “madness", whilst Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson called it "outrageous"

Mr Houchen said: “Tyne and Wear councils who have complete control over this contract have failed to protect a major North East business and local jobs. Instead, they have awarded this £500m to a foreign company to the detriment of the local area.

“The new Nexus trains will be built by a foreign company, rather than one just down the road. We must stop this madness.

“Given the importance of this decision and the fact that the official award hasn’t been announced there is still time for a full and urgent review into this decision. I’m calling on the Tyne and Wear councils to pause on the awarding of this contract and to review this perverse decision and I implore other local leaders and MPs to back this call.

“Trains built locally by Hitachi Rail can be found on railways around the world, but because of this horrendous decision this is being put at risk.

“It’s taken years to bring Hitachi to the North East and to make them the powerhouse that they are, much of which was led by the Northern Echo in a long-standing campaign. If the result of all that work is Labour councils awarding contracts that should stay local to foreign competitors, then my view is that these councils have lost their way.”

Mr Wilson said: "If it is true, I think the decision is absolutely outrageous and a real kick in the teeth for the region.

"I always said it would be great to have trains for the North-East, made in the North-East, and I will be speaking to Hitachi and Nexus to get some clarity on the situation."

A spokesperson for Hitachi said they were unable to comment for legal reasons.

A spokesperson for Nexus said: "The procurement of our new train fleet is an ongoing process. We cannot comment on any details of the respective bids from Hitachi Rail, Stadler or CAF at this stage.

"The successful bidder will be officially announced in January.”