A TRAIN builder's investment at its County Durham factory – which now totals £110million – sees new facilities completed, allowing welding and painting to start on brand new UK passenger trains.

New welding and painting facilities will be used to build the next generation of intercity trains for East Midlands Railway and Avanti West Coast at Hitachi, in Newton Aycliffe.

Around 40 staff and newly graduated welders and painters will be completing the high-tech aluminium carriage shells, which are a signature of Hitachi’s intercity fleets.

The Northern Echo:

Jim Brewin, of Hitachi Rail said: “The £110 million we have now invested at Newton Aycliffe is not only a sign of our continued commitment to the North-East of England but also British manufacturing and its supply chain.

"At the heart of our commitment is the continued development of a highly skilled and dynamic workforce, which through our South Durham Technical University College partnership and 70 apprenticeships will drive the rail industry forward at home and abroad for many years to come.”

The North-East train builder has invested £8.5million to create bespoke welding and painting facilities within the factory.

The Northern Echo:

It is the first time in decades that a new train welding facility has been created in Britain, with more than 230 carriages due to be welded at Newton Aycliffe.

The investment has also involved an extensive upskilling programme for staff and apprentices, including an eight week initial training programme for welding certification, then further training to obtain additional specialist qualifications.

This new training has created a new skills-base that will benefit the workforce and the factory, delivering current and future projects.

The Northern Echo:

The firm established its highly advanced North-East manufacturing base, with its 700 strong workforce, in 2015, to build 122 pioneering trains as part of the Government’s Intercity Express Programme, along with 70 zero-emission Class 385 regional trains for Scotland.

Since then, Hitachi Rail has focused on localising its supply chain in the UK with whom is has already spent £1.8billion since 2013, which includes over 130 separate North-East suppliers.

The new manufacturing capabilities at the factory is allowing Hitachi Rail to further expand its UK supply chain.

New domestic suppliers include AES in Glasgow, Airblast in Peterborough and KM Tools in Stoke-on-Trent.

Meanwhile, the expansion in scope of Newton Aycliffe has resulted in Hitachi Rail increasing its existing relationship with North-East firms such as Dyer Engineering and Hydram Engineering.

MP Paul Howell has praised the firm, he said: “This investment by Hitachi Rail is another statement of their ongoing efforts to localise skills and supply, creating new roles and opportunities to level up the North-East.Their ongoing work with the University Technical College and investment in apprentices is a huge credit to them and my constituents. It’s developing real career opportunities for young people in my area and I look forward to supporting them in their journey forward.”