Labour has accused the Government of inaction over securing the future of Hitachi's Newton Aycliffe factory as the firm faces a crisis over a production gap.

Raising an urgent question in the House of Commons today (April 16), the Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said there has been a lack of action from Transport Secretary Mark Harper over the future of Hitachi and the Alstom’s site in Derby.

Production lines at the historical Litchurch Lane site in Derby stopped work on new trains last month due to a lack of orders, while the future of the huge train factory in Newton Aycliffe has been thrown into doubt amid worries about a gap in orders.

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

Rail minister Huw Merriman, fielding the question, rejected the claims and insisted the Government is doing everything it can to support the workforce saying there were “complex problems with no easy solutions”.

The Northern Echo: Rail minister Huw MerrimanRail minister Huw Merriman (Image:

The exchange comes as The Northern Echo, supported by politicians and union leaders, continues to urge the Government to trigger an extension to the company’s contract to build trains for the West Coast line to protect its 750-strong workforce.

Addressing the commons today, Ms Haigh argued that Britain’s rail manufacturing is in “crisis”, with Alstom and Hitachi warning their work in the UK is at risk.

She said: “Two of our largest train manufacturers have warned that their very presence in this country is at risk.

“Alstom in Derby is staring down the barrel of 1,300 job losses, and Hitachi in Newton Aycliffe another 700 – in their supply chains that’s more than 16,000 jobs.

“Both Alstom and Hitachi are clear that their uncertain future is thanks to this Government’s inaction.

The Northern Echo: Shadow transport secretary Louise HaighShadow transport secretary Louise Haigh (Image:

“Alstom’s management have said continued delay in providing certainty and clarity from the Transport Secretary is to blame. Because the fact is the secretary of state has known about this problem for months.

“I first raised Hitachi’s concerns in this house over a year ago.

"Both manufacturers have offered that the situation can be rectified by amending their order schedules for a small number of existing trains privately financed and we also understand that the transport secretary has been privately promising them action on this for months.

She added: “People’s livelihoods the minister dismisses as peaks and troughs."

“In his letter to me of March 29, the Transport Secretary as usual ducked all responsibility.

“He claimed he has no influence over procurement contracts, yet his department has varied contracts in the past.

“He claims this has nothing to do with his mismanagement of HS2, but both struggling manufacturers claim otherwise.

"He claims he is providing certainly for the industry yet he’s refusing to bring forward his long-delayed rail reforms or reforms or set out a rolling stock strategy for the country.”

Rail minister Huw Merriman, citing an open letter by Mr Harper, said: “The Government is well aware that companies like Alstom and Hitachi are facing short-term gaps in their order books.

“The letter sets out clearly these are complex problems for which they are not simple solutions, but the Government has been doing everything it can to support the workforce over many months and is continuing to do so.

“We’ve held discussions with a Hitachi, in correspondence and face-to-face, and remain keen to work with Hitachi to look at commercial solutions to guarantee the long-term sustainable future of its Newton Aycliffe site.

“But Hitachi are not currently consulting on any changes to its workforce and the fact remains that the market for passenger trains is a competitive one.”The Northern Echo: Sedgefield MP Paul Howell Sedgefield MP Paul Howell (Image:

Sedgefield’s Conservative MP Paul Howell accused Labour of using Hitachi crisis as a “political football” saying: "I am very concerned about what is happening with Hitachi as I am with Alstom as with the supply chains.

"I have met the unions, I have met Unite several times and will continue to do so. It is important that we are all engaged in this properly and confidentially, where appropriate.

"I have been completely irritated by the number of time the opposition has said the Government is not engaged.

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"For most of the time I have been engaging with them confidentially, as Hitachi asked.

"Everybody, including the Prime Minister, has been to Hitachi to understand what exactly the situation is."

Mr Merriman later clarified: “I did not say that individuals are to be dealt with in terms of peaks and troughs, I said that the procurement cycle leads to that.”