The Shadow transport secretary has urged the Government to take action to safeguard the future of 700 jobs at Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe site as it reaches a crisis point.

Speaking in the House of Commons this morning, Louise Haigh said the Government appears to be “failing” in its bid to prevent job losses at train-making factories across England.

She highlighted reports this week of 3,000 jobs at risk at Alstom’s rail factory in Derby, adding: “And it gets worse.The Northern Echo: Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh (Image: PA)

"This morning I have received correspondence from Hitachi Rail warning that despite years of representation to ministers, no solution has been found to keep their order books full to safeguard the future of 700 staff at its factory in Newton Aycliffe.

“The Secretary of State has it in his power to vary their contracts and commission the necessary orders. When is he going to do it and protect these jobs?”

Speaking later to The Northern Echo, during a visit to the region, Ms Haigh said: “This is an issue Hitachi has been raising with me and the Government for many months and years now. And it’s been an issue the Government should have seen coming a mile down the road.The Northern Echo:

“We have always known there was going to be a gap in Hitachi’s order books imminently and without those books filled it would result in job losses. And the Government seems to take a very complacent attitude.

“The minister this morning essentially responded by saying there was too much manufacturing capacity and not sufficient orders which essentially means he’s content to see job losses in the North East.

"We know that the Secretary of State has been considering varying Hitachi’s contract to fulfil the necessary orders.

“It is within his power and it won’t cost public money and it is utterly baffling to me as to why he won’t do it – and protect the jobs here in the North East."

"Not only would it mean job losses, but would have severe consequences for the supply chain."

Ms Haigh said Labour would immediately vary the contracts in the short term to make sure the orders are in place and in the longer term we would move away from these peaks and troughs in rolling stock orders that are creating these crises.

"We have said we will put in place a long-term rolling stock strategy, to support British manufacturing." 

The Northern Echo: Transport minister Huw Merriman Transport minister Huw Merriman (Image: PA)

Transport minister Huw Merriman told the House of Commons that there is a “lag with the order book” as most of the train fleet is under the age at which it needs replacing.

He added: “We are doing everything we can to work with all four train manufacturers to bring more tenders through.

"Those will be for TransPennine Express, for Northern, for South-Eastern and, as the Secretary of State mentioned, for Chiltern, but the work goes in partnership between the train manufacturers and the Secretary of State and the department to find a resolution. We hope to do so."

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.

A Hitachi Rail spokesperson said earlier: “We continue to 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.” 

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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.