Sir Keir Starmer said the Government should "roll up its sleeves" to help Hitachi as he backed The Northern Echo’s campaign to safeguard the future of the factory.

The Labour leader spoke exclusively about his concerns for the Newton Aycliffe plant after it emerged a lack of orders could force it to close.

The Japanese firm warned a "production gap" was threatening the livelihoods of 750 staff as well as a further 1,400 related jobs.

Earlier this week, the newspaper gained the support of politicians across the region by launching a campaign to save the site.

The Northern Echo: Sir Keir said the Government needs to 'roll up its sleeves'Sir Keir said the Government needs to 'roll up its sleeves' (Image: PA)Sir Keir said: “I am very concerned about the situation at Hitachi.

“I have been there and seen for myself the production, and the pride the workforce has in what they are doing.

“I have spent time in the region with other supply chains that are feeding into part of that enterprise so I am very concerned about the issue of the productivity gap.

“It is so important that The Northern Echo is campaigning for it.

“In an age where people are more sceptical of national news outlets, they very often look to local news as a trusted source of information on issues that matter to them in their patch.

“I am very supportive of local media and local newspapers.”

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The Northern Echo: The future of the Hitachi plant is at risk The future of the Hitachi plant is at risk (Image: Northern Echo)Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has so far not responded to The Northern Echo’s plea for action or acknowledged the newspaper’s campaign.

The factory opened in 2015 after the Echo campaigned to bring the firm to the region.

Hitachi is currently making its final trains for Avanti West Coast and East Midlands Railway, but bosses have said contracts to make more trains for the West Coast Mainline are the only viable way to plug the production gap on the horizon.

Sir Keir said he did not accept reports the Government was unable to help because it was concerned about potential legal action from other train manufacturing firms.

The Northern Echo: The factory opened in 2015The factory opened in 2015 (Image: Northern Echo)He said: “It does not take much to roll up your sleeves, get in the room and talk to the management at Hitachi and come up with creative solution.

“I am not saying it is easy but don’t make excuses.

“With a collaborative approach, with an incoming Labour Government partnering with Hitachi, we can find a way through this.

“But it does require a step change in terms of the role of Government.

“The role of Government is not to sit on the sidelines making excuses, the role of Government is to understand why firms like Hitachi and other businesses matter, particularly in the North East where the history of train making is profound.”

The Department for Transport said the market for rolling stock is ‘a competitive and commercial one’ and there can be ‘no guarantee of orders’ for individual manufacturers.

It said firms need to ‘factor these into their own business planning decisions’.

The Northern Echo: An overview of the factory in Newton Aycliffe An overview of the factory in Newton Aycliffe (Image: Northern Echo)Most read:

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The Government is committed to supporting the entire sector and is working with all rolling stock manufacturers, including Hitachi, on the future pipeline of orders which we expect to remain strong in the coming years. 

“More recently, new long-distance trains have been procured on LNER and the tender process for new trains on TransPennine Express is live for all manufacturers to bid for.”