LET’S bring train-building back home.

Almost 200 years ago, the railway revolution began in what was then, and is today, England’s Northern Powerhouse. The Stockton & Darlington Railway joined not just Stockton with Darlington but Yarm with Shildon, and continents suddenly became smaller. Industries ramped up production and the people of Britain’s towns and cities were the first to feel the benefits.

In the coming years, High Speed 2 will breathe new life in our Victorian rail network, but the Government needs to make the case for it in areas, like our own, it doesn’t quite touch – yet.

Every taxpayer in Britain will help to pay for HS2, but you’d be hard pressed to find many in our part of the world who can justify its mammoth £56bn price tag. Coming in at £850 per head, local people have every right to ask what HS2 will do for them. In reality, we see a multi-billion pound railway running from London to Birmingham – and that’s it.

But by committing to manufacture HS2’s trains here in the North-East, the Government would clearly demonstrate the Britain-wide benefits of the project.

When Margaret Thatcher brought Nissan to Sunderland in the 1980s, it took more than goodwill – she had to put taxpayers’ money and her reputation on the line. This investment started with choosing an area with an abundance of capable workers, like we have today. The gamble ultimately paid off, and the factory now produces more cars each year than the entire Italian motor industry.

Backing the Hitachi bid to build the new HS2 trains at Newton Aycliffe is this Government’s chance to do the same. It would create and sustain highly skilled, well paid jobs, and would help to close the stubborn north-south divide.

Our area has a rich railway heritage, and my combined authority is leading the way in preparing for the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 2025.

It can have a rich railway future, too, and this massive contract would be a massive coup for a firm that has constantly showed its commitment to the Tees Valley, through working side-by-side with our businesses, helping them to grow. The benefits would be felt across our whole area and the wider North-East.

We can’t just cross our fingers and hope that the talent, graft and commitment on display in our region is noticed by others: we need to shout about it, because if we don’t no one else will do it for us.

Indeed, Hitachi was attracted to our area in the first place by an amazing community campaign involving many people and organisations, including The Northern Echo, and now I am determined to play my part.

That’s why I’ve written to the Transport Secretary to push the case for the HS2 contract to come to Newton Aycliffe. I’ve left him a clear and simple message, which I hope he’ll listen to: let’s not hand the naysayers another excuse to dismiss the Northern Powerhouse as a PR exercise. Let’s back northern manufacturing and bring train-building back home.

Ben Houchen, a Conservative, is the directly elected mayor of the Tees Valley