The Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP, the Japanese Ambassador to the UK, Koji Tsuruoka and Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, Andrew Percy MP were among other invited guests yesterday to see the first British-built Intercity Express train unveiled at the Hitachi Rail Europe site in Newton Aycliffe.
The visit comes as hopes that the North East could win the contract to build the trains for the HS2 rail link at the factory were given a boost recently when Mr Grayling said that the Government would ensure that the trains were built in the UK. The tender process will take place towards the end of the decade.
The trains will run on the £55 billion rail link between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds and the Department of Transport have confirmed that trains will also run to Darlington, Durham and Newcastle using the East Coast Main Line between Newcastle and York.
The trains will be 200 metres long with the possibility of connecting two trains to produce a 400-metre-long train with 1,100 seats.
Members and supporters of the Labour Party attended their regional conference at the International Centre for Life in Newcastle today. Following an introduction to the stage by Newcastle North MP Chi Onwurah, party leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed the conference reiterating that the north maintains strong Labour support and is an area with many proud traditions. He also outlined his party’s plans for a ‘Northern Powerhouse’, spoke about the NHS, the economy and the forthcoming EU referendum.
Among those speaking or taking part in Question and Answer sessions during the event, which was well attended by members from all across the region, were Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Angela Eagle, the Shadow Business Secretary and Shadow First Secretary of State, Pat Glass, Shadow Europe Minister and Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Cabinet Office Minister.
During the conference lunchtime break there was a small demonstration outside the venue held by a number of EDL supporters who displayed a banner opposing refugees entering the country. Police officers were called after some verbal insults were shouted to some Labour members but otherwise the demonstration passed without incident.
British Prime Minister David Cameron and the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne joined other dignitaries and business leaders as they attended the extravagant opening of an £82m train factory in County Durham today.
The Hitachi plant in Newton Aycliffe will employ 750 workers assembling high-speed Intercity trains for the East Coast and Great Western main lines using parts produced in Japan.
It has been hailed as an economic boost, with many local companies involved in the plant’s construction. At the opening ceremony Prime Minister David Cameron said it was a “show of confidence” in the region.
“This is Hitachi’s first factory in Europe and their massive investment is a sign of their commitment to the United Kingdom and a real show of confidence in our economy and of confidence in the North East,” he said.
“I think this is a really big moment for the region. Train manufacturing has come back to the North East.”