A DARK cloud is lingering over Hitachi after it was announced the firm, which has a factory in Newton Aycliffe has missed out on a multi-million-pound contract to build trains for the Tyne and Wear Metro.

Earlier today, Nexus, the public body which owns and manages the Tyne and Wear Metro confirmed Stadler, the Swiss train builder currently delivering new trains for Glasgow and Liverpool will build the trains after an 18-month search.

The Japanese firm has once again been overlooked after it missed out on a contract to design and manufacture 94 Deep Tube trains to serve the London Underground's Piccadilly line two years ago.

The decision has been met by criticism from North-East supporters inlcuding Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen who fear more jobs will be lost following 250 job losses at Hitachi.

He said: “This is an absolutely disgraceful decision from Nexus.

“I’ve been warning people since October that this was going to happen and I said the procurement process should be stopped. Instead, the Labour run Tyne and Wear Councils sat back, did absolutely nothing and denied everything. They have made excuse after excuse as to why they wouldn’t work with a local, world-renowned company right on their doorstep.

“The result of this is not only Hitachi missing out on a significant contract that would have seen trains for the North-East, built in the North-East, but it has resulted in 250 hard-working, highly skilled local people losing their jobs.

“To add insult to injury, the Tyne and Wear Councils have awarded the contract to a firm which won’t even build the trains in the UK! It was bad enough that Hitachi had been snubbed and the trains wouldn’t be built in the North-East, but this makes the whole process even more outrageous.

“The people at Nexus and the Tyne and Wear council leaders must explain their actions to those workers who are out of work as a result of this ridiculous decision.

“Hitachi is an amazing manufacturing business and I will do everything I can to support this hugely important North-East company and local jobs going forward – as it is clear the Tyne and Wear Councils have no interest in doing so.”

In response to the critics, Tobyn Hughes of Nexus said: “Stadler put forward the best possible trains that met our specification requirements for the best available price.

“Nexus is a public body, the money we're using to buy these trains is taxpayers' money.

"It's a job that we have to do to make sure we get the best value we can for the taxpayers whilst making sure we get the best quality trains for the people who use the Metro, now and long into the future.

"Stadler were the ones who won that process fair and square.

"We're also pleased that Stadler are working with local suppliers at our request, working through the North-East Local Enterprise Partnership and we've made connections to suppliers close to where we're standing in Gateshead and across the North-East and in fact throughout the UK.”

A Hitachi spokesperson said:“Hitachi Rail is naturally disappointed not to have been awarded a contract by Nexus to deliver new metro trains. We put forward what we thought was the right proposal for UK-built trains and maintenance at a reasonable, deliverable price.

“As many of our factory employees and suppliers live and work in the North East, and use the metro, we wish Nexus well delivering the upgrade.”

The Department for Transport has confirmed it is providing £337m to Nexus towards funding the cost of the Stadler programme as part of the Government’s investment in the North of England’s economy.

The Swiss firm will work with more than 30 new supply chain partners in the UK advanced manufacturing, technology and construction sectors, half of them in the North-East and said they hope to create and secure hundreds of jobs.

Chris Heaton-Harris MP says the decision to award the contract to a Swiss firm and not Hitachi was one made locally and not by the Government.

He said: "We didn't get involved in the procurement process.

"These are powers that have been devolved but we have supported this project with £337m of UK taxpayers' money.

"That will guarantee lots of jobs in the supply chain, as I said earlier, they want the service contract to create new jobs locally as well.

"This is local decision making by local people."

Nexus and Stadler have unveiled the design of the new Metro trains, based on suggestions by more than 3,000 passengers.

Among new features will be an automatic sliding step at every door of the new trains which aims to make travel easier for Metro’s 50,000 wheelchair passengers as well as people with children’s buggies, luggage or bicycles.