The Prime Minister has sympathised with what he described as an ‘anxious’ time for workers at Newton Aycliffe’s Hitachi, but revealed a 'strong order book more generally.'

During a visit to the region, Rishi Sunak revealed that there was a “strong order book more generally for rail manufacturing,” but did not reveal a way forward for the manufacturing giant.

Serious concerns have recently been raised over the future of Hitachi’s Aycliffe plant after bosses failed to reach an agreement with the Government to keep their order books full.

The Northern Echo: Hitachi Newton Aycliffe

The Northern Echo has been urging the Government to step in and help Hitachi by extending a vital contract to secure the future of its Newton Aycliffe plant.

Business leaders, unions and politicians are backing the call, as hundreds of jobs are at risk with the company’s order books running dry.

We campaigned ten years ago to bring the factory to the region, and are now urging the Government to keep it on track by extending the company’s contract - or do everything in its power to find other orders to plug the gap.

Bosses at Hitachi said they have been in talks for two years in an attempt to find a solution, but this had "not resulted in a positive resolution".

The factory keeps 750 people in work on-site, alongside another 1,400 jobs indirectly. 

The Northern Echo understands that while the company is believed to have some 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.

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

Speaking to The Northern Echo at Teesworks, the PM revealed that the department of transport “was in close dialogue with Hitachi.”

He added: “There’s a limit with what I can say about commercially sensitive conversations.

“There are upcoming contracts for a few different rail companies, Chiltern and South Eastern from memory and a couple of others.

The Northern Echo:

“There are orders that are coming down the line. It’s hard for me to comment on one individual order but we want to make sure that we support rail manufacturing in the UK, it’s really important.”

Meanwhile, he continued to wax lyrical around plans to invest more in local transport as part of the “levelling up agenda”.

He said: “One of the things we have done as a result of the decision on HS2 was to provide considerably more funding for Ben Houchen to invest in the local community here on the types of transport that people really want and value and I think that’s something that has been warmly welcomed.

“We are continuing with levelling up, particularly in transport, and making sure we have all the dialogue we can with Hitachi about the future upcoming orders.

“One thing that is worth pointing out as well is that it was the Labour authorities in the North East which didn’t award Hitachi any Metro contracts.”

The Prime Minister was in the region visiting SeAH Stee Holding's construction of a wind tech factory near Redcar, alongside Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen and Jacob Young MP.