As MP in Tony Blair’s old seat, Phil Wilson played a part in bringing Hitachi to Newton Aycliffe. Writing for The Northern Echo, as fears grow over the future of the site, he writes how the situation angers him. 

Only a few hundred yards from the Hitachi factory in Newton Aycliffe stands Heighington Station where, in 1825, George Stephenson assembled Locomotion No. 1.

When the factory opened in 2015, train building came home. I was proud to play my part in securing Hitachi’s investment for the town. In fact, the whole community came together to campaign for jobs. The Northern Echo’s support was pivotal. The campaign was positive, optimistic and about the future. Hitachi is now an iconic brand in South Durham.

The current Conservative Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak visited Hitachi last year. He said: "There is some world-class manufacturing going on here." I agree with him.The Northern Echo:

Then he said: "As a Government, we’re committed to supporting jobs and opportunities to people across the North East and this is a great example of it."

I can agree with the Prime Minster: Hitachi is a "great example"; offering good, high value jobs. I’m not too sure, however, I can accept his commitment to securing "jobs and opportunities".

Hitachi Rail has negotiated with the Government for two years to secure a variation to an existing order to keep their Newton Aycliffe factory open until the HS2 rolling stock contract, which Hitachi won, comes into play later this decade.

Instead, the Government has sat on its hands, keeps putting off decisions, replacing one deadline with another, and then refuses to help. Rishi Sunak’s commitment rings hollow. He stands back and is ready to see job losses hit Newton Aycliffe, and it’s not all about Hitachi, the rest of the rail industry is facing similar problems.The Northern Echo:

Now it’s coming to the crunch for Hitachi. They’ve already written off the £64.8 million value of the factory. The company has enough work until the beginning of 2025 and are earnestly trying to keep the order books full. Hitachi’s commitment to Newton Aycliffe is total, but only the Government has the power to intervene.

I was pleased to see Louise Haigh, the shadow transport minister, raise Hitachi’s plight in the House of Commons last week. She gave a Labour commitment to vary existing contracts to sustain Hitachi’s order book. Proof it can be done.

The current situation angers me. After all our hard work in bringing Hitachi to Aycliffe, I can understand the anger in the local community too.

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Up to 700 jobs are at risk, with many more in the supply change. Nothing more sums up the government’s vision for the North East that the image of a modern train manufacturer threatened with job losses and even closure, situated right next to where George Stephenson started the passenger railway revolution and where the world’s first train station now stands dilapidated.

Yet, nothing seems more dilapidated than the Government’s commitment to industrial renewal. After fourteen years of governing, where is the Government’s industrial strategy? What happened to all the levelling-up promises? All words. All promises. All dither, no action. The Conservatives have given up on governing. They’ve certainly given up on the North East.