The new Labour government says it is “urgently exploring options” to save the Hitachi Rail factory in County Durham.

Sir Keir Starmer, Rachel Reeves, and new transport secretary Lou Haigh have all committed over recent weeks and months that a Labour administration would act to protect the major trainbuilding plant in Newton Aycliffe, where hundreds of jobs are at risk due to a gap in orders.

Labour had claimed that the previous Tory government had the power to save the factory “with the stroke of a pen” by extending the manufacturing giant’s existing contracts, pledging it would do that if it were in power and then also deliver a long-term strategy that would end a “boom-and-bust cycle” for the rail industry.

Asked by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) what action the new government was now taking following Labour’s landslide election last week, a Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We are absolutely committed to protecting the highly skilled jobs that rail manufacturing brings to the UK and securing the future of this vital industry – that’s why we are urgently exploring options to support jobs at Hitachi.”

Safeguarding the future of the Hitachi plant was top of a wish list sent by North East mayor Kim McGuinness to Sir Keir Starmer this week, ahead of a meeting with the Prime Minister and other elected mayors from around England.

Speaking to the LDRS after her visit to Downing Street on Tuesday morning, Ms McGuinness said the situation at Hitachi was “urgent”.

She added: “We know those jobs in our region are at risk and what that means is that the rail industry in our region is at risk.

“I feel very strongly that it is an urgent thing we need to resolve. I am glad to have put it in front of the Prime Minister and the secretary of state for transport very, very quickly and I will keep in touch with them to get it resolved as quickly as possible.”

Hitachi bosses said on Tuesday that they “look forward to meeting with the new government very soon to assess available solutions to maintain jobs and skills at Newton Aycliffe”.

Ms Reeves, the newly-appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, told the LDRS during the general election campaign that a Labour government would act to resolve a looming production gap which could threaten the future of the Japanese manufacturing giant’s North East operation, with work on Hitachi’s existing contracts expected to decline by this October.

Get more from The Northern Echo and stay informed with subscription. Click here to find out more.

Most read:

Balloon release planned for Darlington's Scarlett Vickers

Labour PM holds meeting with Mayors including Ben Houchen

Gogglebox's Anne and Ken visit County Durham restaurant

She said at the time that her party would do that by “using the variations in the contract which are possible to bring forward work” and “bring forward new procurement that Hitachi can bid for and are confident that they can win”.

However, the Conservatives have questioned Labour’s claims that the situation could be easily resolved.

Paul Howell, the former Sedgefield MP, told the LDRS in June that Labour was pushing a “completely misleading” plan and that the DfT had “absolutely said that the things Labour are claiming can be done with the stroke of a pen cannot be done”.