BOSSES at a North-East train builder have welcomed being awarded a new £400m contract, but warned they still require another significant order to secure their long-term future.

Newton Aycliffe's Hitachi has been chosen by Abellio, who were recently awarded a eight-year East Midlands Railway (EMR) franchise by the Department for Transport, to build 165 carriages for a new fleet of intercity trains.

The Northern Echo:

The new intercity trains will start operating in 2022 and will serve the main cities and towns on the Midland Main Line including Sheffield, Chesterfield, Nottingham, Derby, Leicester and Lincoln as well as Kettering and London St Pancras.

Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson said the decision to award the contract to Hitachi was "fantastic news", whilst Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said the deal will "bring peace of mind" to North-East workers.

Earlier this year, unions warned Hitachi was facing an "increasingly concerning" future when current orders for new trains run out next spring as there were no new orders in the pipeline.

The firm has since secured a £100m deal to build new high speed trains linking London and Edinburgh, and remains in the running for both the Tyne and Wear Metro and HS2 contracts – deals that bosses believe will be crucial for the firm's future.

The Northern Echo: Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson has presented parliament with a petition, signed by youngsters at Sugar Hill Primary School in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, urging the Government to do more to help free the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls

Mr Wilson said: "The new contract Hitachi has won is fantastic news – it will secure existing jobs and is very welcome news doe the supply chain and Newton Aycliffe."

Mr Houchen added: “This bumper £400m contract is a huge win and will bring peace of mind to local workers, but in order to sustain the plant further we need more work coming.

"I’m pushing relentlessly behind the scenes for Hitachi to secure both the Tyne & Wear Metro and HS2 contracts.”

The Northern Echo: Ben Houchen

Abellio has ordered 33 five-carriage trains, which will regularly be operated in 10-carriage formations.

Bosses say the new trains will offer significant advances on the existing fleet, with passengers benefitting from more seats and modern interiors, and will include features that passengers have said they want to see, including air conditioning, free Wi-Fi throughout, plug sockets and better passenger information screens.

The new Hitachi trains are quieter and greener, meaning lower carbon emissions and a better environment for passengers and communities along the route.

They have the ability to run using electric overhead lines wherever possible and when running in diesel mode, will cut harmful emissions by up to 90 per cent compared to the legacy High Speed Trains.

The Northern Echo:

Bosses say Hitachi’s proven capability to deliver modern intercity trains was a key factor in being awarded the contract, and Hitachi’s skilled train maintenance team will maintain and service the new fleet at EMR’s Etches Park depot in Derby supporting high quality engineering jobs in East Midlands.

Karen Boswell, managing director for Hitachi Rail UK, said: “Today’s announcement will be welcomed in workshops and engineering centres across the country, thanks to our large network of UK suppliers.

"Our train factory in County Durham sources train parts from across the country, including from the region where the new trains will run.

“Hitachi is delighted that EMR passengers will soon be receiving the very latest model of our new intercity trains, which are already proving popular and increasing satisfaction among passengers in other parts of the country”.

The Northern Echo:

Since opening in 2015, Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe site has already delivered over 450 intercity train carriages into passenger service in the UK.

Dominic Booth, Abellio UK managing director, added: “These new trains form the centrepiece of our ambitious plans for a complete replacement of all the trains on the East Midlands Railway and are a more than £600m investment to really improve the region’s railway.

"They will respond to what our passengers have told us they want with more frequent services, faster journeys between the East Midlands and London, and provide more capacity with 80 per cent more seats into London in the morning peak”.

The Northern Echo:

Former transport secretary Chris Grayling previously said the Government would do "everything it could" to help Hitachi.

It followed an investigation by The Northern Echo which revealed bosses at Transport for London and knew a fleet of underground trains would be built in Austria when they snubbed Hitachi for Siemens as part of a £1.5bn contract.