Louise Haigh, is Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, raised the crisis at the Hitachi factory in the House of Commons last week. Writing for The Northern Echo she says 'with the stroke of a pen' the Governmenet could vary the existing contracts to keep the factory open.

When the Prime Minister visited Newton Aycliffe earlier this month he said he would “challenge” anyone who claimed that his levelling up agenda had been a failure.

Consecutive Conservative Governments have been quick to reach for soundbites on rebalancing our economy, levelling up, and tackling the failures that mean many of our former industrial towns feel left behind.

But those soundbites will ring hollow for workers up and down the country who have suffered from 14 years of failure to make those promises a reality.

This week, in yet another blow to Britain's rail manufacturing sector, it has been revealed that Hitachi Rail is now being forced to review “all remaining options”, after final attempts to plug a looming 18 month production gap were not approved by Ministers.

Hitachi had long hoped that an upcoming order of West Coast Railway rolling stock may have filled gaps in their order books, but this week it was confirmed by the Department for Transport that no contract would be forthcoming.

Echo readers will be all too familiar with what this could mean for Newton Aycliffe and the region.

And it is an issue that Labour’s North East Mayoral candidate Kim McGuinness has been campaigning hard on locally.

Over a decade ago this newspaper campaigned alongside Labour MPs, councillors, businesses and trade unions to bring Hitachi to the original home of rail. We cannot afford to lose that now because of the current government's inflexibility and lack of industrial strategy.

The plant employs around 750 people and supports another 1,400 jobs indirectly. It provides skilled work, and apprenticeships in a local area which has suffered from lack of opportunity and significant inequality following the de-industrialisation of the 1980s.

It's the same story further south in Derbyshire, where it has been reported that Alstom is also considering up to 3,000 redundancies in its own rail manufacturing plant. Management have said they are all but out of time to find a solution to this existential crisis.

It is clear this is a growing crisis in our struggling rail industry, and that the Government needs to act.

But the truth is it doesn’t have to be this way. Our rail industry can thrive and lead the world once again. There is just one major obstacle in its way: the failure and inaction of this Conservative Government.

The Conservatives have presided over a decade of underinvestment in our transport infrastructure, endless broken promises on Northern Powerhouse Rail, and it was on their watch that HS2 costs were allowed to run completely out of control, culminating in the chaotic cancellation of the Northern leg of the project.

It is clear there are fundamental problems with this Government's reckless and short-sighted approach to our railways. Ministers do not seem to understand that there are real consequences to their actions, and to their inaction. These are consequences that hit working people the hardest.

In the long term there are ways to support our rail sector to recover – a proper rail procurement strategy, for instance. One which delivers a consistent supply of orders, and a much better pacing of how rolling stock is built.

But Ministers have stalwartly refused to produce an industrial strategy which works for rolling stock manufacturers or our railways, instead taking a piecemeal approach to projects and orders, and refusing to take responsibility for the consequences of their decisions. This is simply not good enough.

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Rebuilding rail manufacturing in Britain will take time. However, there is a simple solution that the government could explore to solve the acute problems workers at Hitachi, and Alstom face today.

With a stroke of a pen the Secretary of State could vary the existing contracts and give the manufacturers the flexibility and certainty to keep these factories open and to safeguard jobs. With so many jobs on the line, Ministers have serious questions to answer on why they have not done so.

You have my assurance that a Labour Government would step in and explore every possible solution, including this one