The Government was last night facing mounting pressure to save Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe factory after it was close to stepping in to save a train factory in Derby also facing closure.

It comes after reports Transport Secretary Mark Harper signed off a deal on Tuesday (April 16) for Derby-based manufacturer Alstom to build ten new trains at its plant, plugging a gap in orders which threatened its existence, and 3,000 jobs.

Hitachi in Newton Aycliffe also needs new orders to fill a gap between finishing trains for the West Coast Mainline, and starting work on HS2 trains.

If no new orders are found hundreds of its 750-strong workforce could be laid off or the plant even closed over the next 12 months.

The Northern Echo: Transport Secretary Mark Harper pictured in Northumberland last year.Transport Secretary Mark Harper pictured in Northumberland last year. (Image: PA Wire/PA Images)

Labour said the Alstom deal showed the Government could step in and end uncertainty at the Aycliffe plant.

Ministers told Hitachi last month they had no plans to order more trains to run on the West Coast mainline, which the firm saw as the only viable way to plug the production gap.

The Northern Echo has been calling for the Government to step in to save the Newton Aycliffe plant teetering on the edge, which also supports 1,400 other local jobs, by extending that very contract.

The Northern Echo: Inside the Hitachi Newton Aycliffe factory.Inside the Hitachi Newton Aycliffe factory. (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

A meeting took place between Mr Harper, Hitachi and union representatives and Sedgefield MP Paul Howell on Wednesday, but the Echo understands no deal is imminent for Hitachi despite the Alstom agreement.

Mr Howell said that meeting was “encouraging”. He said: “We have got noises of things moving in the right direction were encouraging but there's a few things that need to come together. Everybody's very much trying to find a way through.

The Northern Echo: Paul Howell MP.Paul Howell MP. (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

Speaking of the Alstom deal and whether Hitachi could secure a similar agreement he added, “I don't think it does any harm”.

His predecessor, Phil Wilson who campaigned for the factory to open in 2015, said: “If they can do it for Alstom they can do it for Hitachi.

“When we have got two former Conservative transport secretaries coming out saying the closure would be ridiculous, you can’t say it’s party political.”

Like Hitachi, who said talks with the Department for Transport (DfT) had been ongoing for two years to no avail, Alston talks with ministers had also previously resulted in no new orders.

Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh said: “The Government have shown with Alstom in Derby that when they want to, they can step in to save jobs in rail manufacturing. Now they must do the same to safeguard the 700 jobs at Hitachi in Newton Aycliffe.

“Transport Secretary Mark Harper must take action now before more avoidable job losses are made. It simply is not good enough to continue ducking responsibility while people's livelihoods are at risk.”

The Northern Echo: Shadow secretary for transport Louise Haigh.Shadow secretary for transport Louise Haigh. (Image: PA)

Meanwhile, Labour’s mayoral candidate Kim McGuinness accused the government of playing off workers at the Derby and Aycliffe factories against each other.

She said: “This is literally the Government picking winners and losers, and right now they are condemning workers in County Durham to the latter status.

"How can ministers honestly say that a job in Durham is not as important as a job in Derby? It's wrong to play workers off against each other like this, the North deserves better.

"The Transport Secretary could level up the north with a stroke of his pen and extend train production work at Hitachi. I am urging him to wake up to this jobs campaign and do the right thing.”

The Northern Echo: Kim McGuinness on a visit to the factory earlier this month.Kim McGuinness on a visit to the factory earlier this month. (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

Hitachi in the North East contributes more than £400million to the UK economy and is a key part of the region’s status as a manufacturing powerhouse, but workers at the site have spent two years awaiting a government decision to extend their existing contract so they can build new rolling stock.

Mr Howell raised the plant and Wednesday morning’s meeting at PMQs on Wednesday lunchtime.

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Rishi Sunak said: “The Department for Transport and the Secretary of State have been actively engaged with companies to ensure we have a robust supply chain and as he knows we are investing record amounts in rail investment, particularly in the North and we’re pleased to see that’s being delivered.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “The Transport Secretary held a constructive meeting with union representatives of the Hitachi workforce today and we remain in close contact with the company to secure a sustainable future for rail manufacturing at Newton Aycliffe.

“Rail manufacturing plays an important role in growing the UK economy and delivering better services for passengers - we remain committed to supporting the entire sector on the future pipeline of orders which will be strong in the coming years.”