Government intervention in Hitachi must be “value for money”, says the Transport Secretary as he hits out at “inaccurate” comments made about the rail industry.

Ministers “continue to work with Hitachi”, says Mark Harper, in a letter to Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh who previously urged the government to secure the site’s future “with the stroke of a pen”.

In her letter, Ms Haigh reiterated Labour’s calls for Ministers to act and back the UK's rail manufacturing industry and protect workers against job losses.

The Northern Echo: Mark Harper.Mark Harper.

The factory, which is located in Newton Aycliffe and employs 750 people, revealed last month they had failed to reach an agreement with the government to keep its order books full before beginning work on HS2 trains.

The factory, which opened in 2015, is making its final trains for Avanti West Coast and East Midlands Railway.

Ministers told Hitachi 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 same problem was faced by Derby-based manufacturer Alstom but they have now recieved a new government deal to build ten new trains at its plant, plugging a gap in orders which also threatened its existence, and 3,000 jobs.

Now, in a letter posted on X, Mr Harper states that the issue of Hitachi is “complex” as he confirms meetings facilitated by Unite reps and Sedgefield MP Paul Howell have taken place - but does not hint at any prospect of a new deal.

He wrote: “On Hitachi, I note you, The Shadow Chancellor and other Labour politicians continue to claim this complex issue has a simple solution and can be resolved ‘with the stroke of a pen’.

“I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet with Unite’s Assistant General Secretary and Unite reps from the facility to explain the facts of the situation and the Government’s position, facilitated by local MP Paul Howell.

“As I made clear, the Government continues to work closely with Hitachi to find a solution but any intervention must comply with the law and ensure value for money for the passenger and taxpayer.”

Mr Harper also said that it is “not true” that rail and rail reform is not a priority for the current government and referred to a £44.1bn Network Rail deal to operate, maintain and renew railways.

The Northern Echo: Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves.Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves. (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

This latest word from the Transport Secretary comes just over a week after Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves renewed calls to secure the future of the factory as its closure would be “unimaginable”.

She added: “It is inconceivable that we don’t have train production in the future here at Newton Aycliffe.

“I am determined to do everything in my power to ensure that the last nine to ten years have not been for nothing.


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“People have worked really hard -  (former Sedgefield MP) Phil Wilson, The Northern Echo and the business community - to get this investment here.

“And the idea that 200th anniversary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway celebrations could see the closing of the train factory here is unimaginable.

“I hope to be a decision maker later this year and to be Chancellor of Exchequer in a Labour government - and then I would then practising what I’m preaching to the Government.”