CONGRATULATIONS to Justine Greening and Patrick McLoughlin, who were Conservative transport secretaries from 2011 to 2016 when Hitachi came to Newton Aycliffe, for seeing so clearly exactly what the Government cannot see.

It is clearly economic madness to spend years of public and private money building up a factory, and growing local skills, only to give up on it when times are tough.

It is clear that if levelling up means anything, it is about the Government seeing manufacturing communities through the tough times rather than turning its backs on them.

And it is clear that this factory is not a lost cause. There will be plenty of work for it in the years to come, but it faces a “pipeline” issue – it needs work in the short term to remain open to fulfil its HS2 contract in 2026.

The former transport secretaries are a little too polite to say it outright, but the Government needs vision. It has to have a proper railway strategy whereby work is deliberately managed to flow continuously through the pipeline to keep the train-builders ticking over. There is, for instance, work on the West Coast Main Line that might be brought forward to keep Newton Aycliffe going until it reaches its HS2 contract.

But the former secretaries do not pull any punches when they conclude that it would be “the ultimate own goal for the UK to lose its long-term rail capacity and become reliant on overseas suppliers again”.

That is where we were in 2010 when The Northern Echo, and others, launched the Back on Track campaign. Why would the Government take us back to then? Why is it so blindly kicking the ball into its own net when, with a little vision, it could be giving the factory a helping hand to successfully play in the right direction?