HITACHI has been awarded a £350 million contract to build 23 new intercity trains at its County Durham plant.
The firm yesterday announced the deal which will see Avanti West Coast trains– totalling 135 carriages– built at the factory in Newton Aycliffe, which employs about 700 people.
Andrew Barr, group chief executive of Hitachi’s rail division, said: “Based on Japanese bullet train technology, our new trains have proven to be the modern intercity train of choice, increasing passenger satisfaction wherever they run.
“We’re delighted to continue our excellent relationship with FirstGroup and Trenitalia, for whom we’ve delivered hundreds of trains across Italy and the UK.
“This new order, which will be built at our factory in the North East, is another vote of confidence in the success of our trains. This contract award is welcome news for our Newton Aycliffe facility and testament to the hard work of its employees. 
"Hitachi continues to bid for new projects, both within the UK and abroad.”
Hitachi said the contract will support thousands of jobs across the country as it prioritises UK suppliers whenever possible, including with servicing and maintenance operations. 
This approach has resulted in Hitachi Rail spending more than £1.6 billion with British suppliers since 2013 and 70 per cent of parts fitted to trains to date have been sourced from within 40 miles of the factory, including window panels that were made by Millfield Composites in Newcastle and various metal parts from Hydram Engineering, just down the road from the factory.
Avanti West Coast will replace Virgin Trains on the west coast route, which links London with towns and cities across England, North Wales and Scotland, from Sunday. 
The new 125mph trains are expected to enter service from 2022.
They will be a mix of ten-carriage electric trains and 13 five-carriage bi-mode trains, which will switch from electric to diesel power where the railway is not electrified such as in North Wales.
The electric trains will run between London, the West Midlands and Liverpool, while the bi-modes will serve the London to North Wales route.
Hitachi said the bi-modes will be quieter for passengers compared with the diesel Class 221 Voyager trains they are replacing. They promise better and more reliable free wi-fi, at-seat wireless charging for electronic devices, plug sockets and USB slots, improved catering and a real-time passenger information system and be of similar size or bigger than trains currently on the line.
Operator Avanti West Coast is owned by First Trenitalia, a partnership between Aberdeen-based transport firm FirstGroup and Italian company Trenitalia.
First Rail managing director Steve Montgomery said: “We look forward to beginning our Avanti West Coast services on Sunday, December 8, and these new trains will help us really improve travel for passengers with more services, more seats, a better journey experience, enhanced catering and added comfort.”
Trenitalia UK managing director Ernesto Sicilia said: “We are pleased to announce this new fleet which highlights our commitment to innovation and desire to constantly improve our services. We are delighted to provide more efficient and modern trains which are sustainable and environmentally friendly, reducing CO2 emissions by 61 per cent, including new comfortable seats for an improved customer experience.”