NO date has been set for a decision on Hitachi's £7.5bn plans to bring train building back to the region, a transport minister said last night.

But Teresa Villiers did reveal that David Cameron has been lobbied personally on the issue by his Japanese counterpart, as pressure grows for an end to the uncertainty.

And she requested further information about the benefits for the North-East if the Intercity Express Programme (IEP) is given the go-ahead.

The request came as Ms Villiers met a delegation of North-East business representatives and trade union officials, led by Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson Hitachi has pledged to create 800 posts at a landmark new factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, with a further 8,000 jobs in the supply chain, if the IEP project is approved, In stark contrast - as The Northern Echo revealed - an alternative proposal to replace Britain's ageing fleet of InterCity 125s is unlikely to create any British jobs.

Emerging from the meeting, Mr Wilson said: "We stressed to the transport minister that the only that guarantees jobs in this country is the Hitachi option.

"She said that negotiations had taken place with the Japanese government at every level, including prime ministerial level and asked for further information on the impact on the North-East's economy.

"We also made the point that the decision was due to be made in December, then in January and now it's February, which is causing a high level of frustration in the North-East."

The delay was caused by ministers seeking fresh advice on whether Hitachi's proposal for 'hybrid' electric/diesel trains offers better value for money than the alternative of "coupling" electric trains with diesel locomotives.

A second issue is the legal difficulty of untangling two-year status of the Hitachi-led consortium Agility Trains as the contract's "preferred bidder". A fresh tendering process would have to be launched.