THE Shadow Transport Secretary yesterday supported a bid to bring train building back to the birthplace of the railways.

Maria Eagle visited Hitachi’s preferred site to deliver the next generation of high speed trains under the Government’s InterCity Express Programme (IEP).

A decision on the scheme, which could create 800 jobs on Aycliffe Business Park, County Durham, and up to 7,000 more in the supply chain, is expected in weeks, but it was revealed yesterday that Aycliffe was not on the original shortlist.

Miss Eagle told a delegation at the nearby Xcel Conference Centre that the revelation showed how much effort had been put in to the Aycliffe bid.

Earlier, Geoff Hunton, the managing director of Merchant Place Developments, said the firm was ready to develop Amazon Park for the Hitachi- led Agility Trains consortium.

However, he said that when Hitachi drew up its shortlist of 42 UK sites, Aycliffe was not among them.

Mr Hunton said: “From not being on the shortlist at all we have gone down to being one of two locations – the other being the Toyota plant in Wales – and now we are the preferred choice.

“Hitachi are coming to Newton Aycliffe, the trigger for them coming to Newton Aycliffe is the awarding of the IEP.”

A decision on the contract, which would be the region’s biggest investment since Nissan came to Sunderland, had been expected in December.

Miss Eagle said she would continue to press Transport Minister Philip Hammond over the delays and press the case for the North-East.

She said: “I do not think it will be too much longer before a decision is made one way or the other.

“There is a big historic link between the North-East and the railways, and it would be poetic justice to see trainbuilding return here.”

Miss Eagle said she would continue to work with Phil Wilson, the MP for Sedgefield, who she credited for leading the campaign.

Mr Wilson said: “The significance of the programme is huge not just in terms of the immediate jobs, but in the draw Hitachi will be for other firms to come to Aycliffe.”