A TRAIN manufacturer which is creating more than 700 jobs in the North-East has won the £360m contract to make high speed trains to run between London and Cornwall from 2018. 

Hitachi, which is about to open a new £82m facility at Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, has secured the deal to replace the 40-year-old trains on the route with rolling stock that is more powerful, greener and more efficient than the existing fleet. 

The deal is a major coup for the firm which has already won contracts to manufacture inter city trains for the East Coast and Great Western main lines, as well as for commuter trains in Scotland. 

The contract to supply First Great Western with 29 new long distance trains follows an announcement earlier this week that Hitachi won the £24m deal to supply traffic management system to London's north-south Thameslink network.

Karen Boswell, Managing Director for Hitachi Rail Europe, said: "Today’s announcement builds on our significant and sustained investment in the British rail sector. 

"This contract with First Great Western recognises the quality of Hitachi’s high speed trains and our world class engineering capability. Hitachi Rail Europe is committed to delivering trains for the UK’s fare paying customers that are genuinely transformative in terms of speed, capacity and comfort. This new fleet will be a revolution in customer experience for those travelling to and from the south west, and we look forward to delivering Hitachi trains for use from 2018 onwards."

The trains will have up to 24 per cent more seats compared to the majority of the trains serving the London to Cornwall route today, creating more than 1,000 additional peak time seats into and out of Paddington every day.

Rail minister Claire Perry, who visited Exeter to mark the announcement, said: "These new trains will make a real difference to the millions of commuters, business travellers and tourists who use this route every year.

"This industry initiative goes hand in hand with the work this government is doing to reverse decades of underinvestment in transport infrastructure in regions like the south west. This will not only mean better journeys for customers, it will also help to secure long term economic growth across the country. Like the new IEP trains serving cities in the north of England, this new fleet will help to open up the region for investment."