A NORTH-EAST train builder has secured a £100m deal to build new high speed trains linking London and Edinburgh.

Hitachi, based at Newton Aycliffe, will build five new AT300 125mph intercity electric trains following a deal with FirstGroup.

The Northern Echo:

Hitachi will build the five electric intercity trains of five carriages each. As part of the agreement, the new trains will be fully maintained by Hitachi for 10 years.

The trains are expected to enter service in 2021.

The news is a welcome boost for the Newton Aycliffe firm, but bosses have warned they still need to secure "substantial work" for the site.

As part of the firm's announcement this morning, a spokesperson said: "Whilst today’s small bespoke order is welcome, it does not address the pressing needs of our Newton Aycliffe factory. 

"We are currently working around the clock to secure substantial work for Newton Aycliffe, which after spring 2020, currently has no pipeline of orders.

This order is further evidence that our intercity trains are the "market leader for the UK.

"Since their introduction on the Great Western route, we’ve seen passenger satisfaction rates increase as they receive modern and reliable trains. Soon, we will have our Azuma trains on the East Coast main line deliver the same benefits to passengers.

"In the coming months we will be looking to secure major new intercity train contracts for Newton Aycliffe to build. It is these major contracts which will support the long-term skilled jobs we have created in the North East.

"Our extensive use of UK suppliers, many of which are based in the North East, depend on Newton Aycliffe winning more orders.

"So whilst we welcome today’s news of a bespoke order, we continue to work tirelessly to ensure Newton Aycliffe has the major orders it needs for next year.

Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson said: "This is excellent news for the plant. It’s only a small order but it helps to secure work and it is an indicator of other contracts that can be won further down the line.

"What would be brilliant for the North-East is if they win the contract to replace the rolling stock on the Tyne & Wear metro – then it would be built in the North-East for the North-East."

Karen Boswell, managing director of Hitachi Rail Europe, said: "Our Japanese-bullet train inspired fleet will play a vital role in supporting FirstGroup’s exciting new service.

“These trains have been designed to increase the number of seats available whilst harnessing the latest in comfort design to boost passenger experiences.

“Today’s deal extends our long-term relationship with FirstGroup, who already use our pioneering intercity trains in other parts of the country to boost reliability and passenger satisfaction.”

The region's politicians have today joined calls for a review into the decision not to award a £1.5bn London Underground contract to Hitachi, describing it as a "slap in the face” and “kick in the teeth”.

This follows The Northern Echo's revelations that Siemens, who were awarded the deal, will build at least two thirds of the trains in Austria, with concerns that the firm's new factory in Goole will not be completed in time.

Under the plans for the new trains, customers will benefit from an average fare of less than £25, on-board catering and free Wi-Fi, more seats, greater comfort and a quieter and more environmentally friendly.

Steve Montgomery, First Rail’s managing director, said: “We’re excited to announce the next step to providing our high-quality low fare service for customers linking London and Edinburgh.

"There’s a real gap in the market for truly affordable rail travel between the two capitals – our plans show we are serious about competing with low-cost airlines and opening up rail travel on this key route to thousands of new passengers.

“The new trains we are introducing will provide the highest level of comfort and service, whilst being great for the environment and air quality.”

Rob Dee, commercial director of Beacon Rail, said: "Beacon Rail is delighted to be financing, procuring and leasing the new Hitachi Inter-City Trains for FirstGroup’s new London-Edinburgh service.

"We are delighted to extend our existing relationship with FirstGroup and look forward to working closely with the Hitachi Rail Europe team to deliver a fantastic passenger experience, which will encourage passengers out of planes and onto trains, promoting sustainable travel."