Prime Minister David Cameron made a surprise appearance to mark the official opening of Hitachi’s new train manufacturing site in Newton Aycliffe.
The £82 million facility is Hitachi’s only European train factory and will support the company’s activities both in the UK and on the continent.
The Newton Aycliffe site is connected to the original Stockton and Darlington Railway. The new IEP trains, built by Hitachi Rail Europe, will take to the rail network on the same stretch of track once worked by George Stephenson’s steam engine, Locomotive No.1.
The official opening of the centre heralds a step change in train travel in Britain. Hitachi Rail Europe will provide new electric and bi-mode trains, for the Great Western Main Line, ScotRail and the East Coast Main Line.
As the factory opened, First Hull Trains confirmed another order – a £68 million contract for five bi-mode units.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “This massive investment from Hitachi shows confidence in the strength of Britain’s growing economy.
“This new train factory will not only provide good jobs for working people but will build the next generation of intercity trains, improving travel for commuters and families, as well as strengthening the infrastructure we need to help the UK grow.”
The Department for Transport’s Intercity Express Programme (IEP) is designed to replace the ageing fleet of High Speed Trains (HSTs).
Under IEP, new Class 800 series trains will improve reliability and reduce environmental impact. A fleet of AT300 trains will run primarily from London Paddington to Plymouth and Penzance, replacing the 40-year-old trains currently serving this key intercity route.
In further developments 46 three-car and 24 four-car AT200 EMU trains will operate in Scotland from late 2017. The first seven trains will be built in Hitachi’s Kasado factory in Japan, with the remaining 63 assembled at Newton Aycliffe.