The Transport Secretary has been told to urgently back North East manufacturing as the number of trains Hitachi has left to work on at its vast Newton Aycliffe site starts to reach a crisis point.

While the company is believed to have around 56 trains left on its order books, it will already be well along its timeline with many of those, leaving perhaps as few as two dozen projects still to be started.

An Hitachi Rail spokesperson could only tell The Northern Echo: “We continue work with industry stakeholders and the government on opportunities surrounding new rolling stock orders such that we can continue to support and further enhance our investments here in the UK”   

But North East mayoral candidate Kim McGuinness has called on Mark Harper to award new train production contracts to the Durham workers before time runs out.

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The Labour candidate met with senior staff on a tour of the Newton Aycliffe factory last week and saw the manufacturing work which keeps 750 people in work on site, alongside another 1,400 jobs indirectly.

Hitachi in the North East contributes more than £400million to the UK economy and is a key part of the region’s status as a manufacturing powerhouse, but workers at the site have spent two years awaiting a government decision to extend their existing contract so they can build new rolling stock at this Newton Aycliffe factory in the UK.

On the tour of the factory Kim McGuinness heard of the limited order book, with a limited number of train production currently left at the site.

“Mark Harper needs to visit this factory and bring with him the announcement these workers need,” Kim said.

The Northern Echo: Inside the Hitachi plantInside the Hitachi plant (Image: Press release)

“The constant delays in awarding new rolling stock orders could have terrible consequences not just for the regional economy but for the livelihood of these workers. The Transport Secretary needs to explain to these people why he is putting their job at risk. It’s time for answers.”

She has written to the Transport Secretary urging him to make a decision on the future of train production before Hitachi order books decline past the point at which the factory is viable.

She added: “The clock is ticking, this is a direct plea to save jobs and invest in the future of the North East.”

But Sedgefield MP Paul Howell hit back at the comments, telling The Northern Echo: “I am disappointed to see Labour trying to politicise this. I speak with the DfT, Ministers and Hitachi senior management weekly. This sort of point scoring isn’t going to solve anything.

"Hitachi are a fantastic company as was shown to the Prime Minister on his recent visit and I know they are front of mind of the Ministers.”