The first-ever North East mayor has written to the Transport Secretary this week requesting a meeting about the future of Hitachi.

Kim McGuinness has written to Mark Harper to ask him to come up to Hitachi and explain why things are not moving forward to save the train manufacturing plant in Newton Aycliffe.

She believes that the Secretary for Transport is "dragging his feet" in finding a solution for the 700 workers at the factory.

The newly-elected mayor is calling on Mr Harper to "do something now" and secure the future of the factory.

Concerns have been growing since Hitachi bosses revealed in March they had failed to reach an agreement with the Government to keep their order books full. The factory keeps 750 people in work on-site, alongside another 1,400 jobs indirectly.

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.

In her letter, the North East mayor's letter explains that a meeting has taken place this week between Hitachi's UK leadership and civil servants to look at options to maintain production throughout the contract gap.

Ms McGuinness said: "I have been working with Hitachi now for a long time, throughout my time as a candidate and now as mayor.

"I have written this week to Mark Harper to request a meeting to say why is it that we haven’t moved this forward. It isn’t good enough.

"There has been a deal for Alstom in Derbyshire. We need a deal to maintain the railway industry here in this region.

"That factory is about the 700 jobs that are there, but it is also about us as a region.

"Our manufacturing sector up here and our national ability in this country to build trains.

"Next year we will celebrate 200 years of the Stockton to Darlington railway on which Hitachi pretty much sits.

"If the government keep going the way they are going and if Mark Harper doesn’t do something soon and keeps dragging his feet we will end up marking that with the closure of the factory.

"I think that is unbearable for us in this region and I think that is unbearable for the country. My words in the strongest possible words are ‘do something now’.

"What I find really difficult to understand is why he won’t visit, I have invited him, the factory have invited him the union have invited him and he hasn’t been."

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Read the full letter to Mark Harper below:

Dear Secretary of State,

Next year marks 200 years since the birth of the British Railway and the opening of the Stockton to Darlington route. But the future of the industry in the North East and across the UK is now at risk.

Having just been elected as the first North East Mayor with a mandate from people across Tyne and Wear, Durham and Northumberland to make the North East the home of real opportunity I am alarmed at the situation with Hitachi Rail.

I have a long-standing relationship with Hitachi Rail at Newton Aycliffe. With that in mind, I write to you in relation to the unnecessary uncertainty surrounding Government orders of rolling stock, placing the future of the Hitachi Rail factory in Newton Aycliffe in doubt. This poses a major threat to 700 highly skilled workers, over 1000 in the supply chain and indeed the wider regional economy.

Good quality jobs in the North East manufacturing sector bring forward major benefits to the entire region. This situation has been known for well over two years. I do not understand why the Government is yet to take action? I am aware that a meeting will take place this week between Hitachi’s UK leadership and civil servants to look at options to maintain production throughout the contract gap. But I have to question why more decisive action isn’t being taken to keep a full operation at Hitachi when a contract option to do so is available?

When workers at the Alstom factory in Derby found their jobs at risk, Government stepped in to safeguard the plant. Unlike Alstom, Hitachi simply require a contract variation, they do not require any financial contribution.

I hope you see the seriousness of this situation. The closure of this factory could be devastating for the rail industry in the UK and for people in Newton Aycliffe and the surrounding area whose livelihoods depend on Hitachi.

I wrote to you as a candidate and invited you to join me at Hitachi. I am now renewing this invitation as the first Mayor North East Mayor and I hope that together we can agree a robust solution which will safeguard jobs, strengthen the future of the plant and ease the significant concerns of workers and their families at this very worrying time.

The Northern Echo contacted the Department of Transport for a comment.