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Train-building campaign launched by regional daily

A regional daily newspaper has launched a campaign urging the government to boost the local economy by bringing back train-building to the North-East.

The Northern Echo has started its ‘Back on Track’ campaign to support a bid to construct a large factory in the area – where the next generation of passenger trains would be built.

It has joined forces with Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson, unions, business organisations and local councils to push for government approval for the project, which would be constructed by Japanese company Hitachi.

The government is due to make a decision in October on plans for the factory in Newton Aycliffe, which is understood to be the favoured location for it.

Northern Echo editor Peter Barron said the campaign had been sparked after a pre-election controversy involving David Cameron about how the North-East would be hit by spending cuts.

He said: “Part of the thinking of getting on board with the train campaign is that Cameron said the point he was making was that the North-East had an imbalance in the economy between the public and private sector.

“What we are saying is ‘Look, here is an opportunity for you to do something really positive in the North-East by investing in the private sector’.

“We want to do everything possible as a local newspaper to make that happen because potentially there are thousands of jobs here.

“Darlington and the North-East have got such a heritage with building trains. We think we have got a special relationship with trains right back to the Stockton-Darlington railway and we think it would be fantastic for the region if it came back.”

The newspaper is planning to get further support for its campaign from MPs and business leaders and also publish a special supplement in the future, which it will make sure is delivered to Mr Cameron.

It says the then Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon announced last year that Agility Trains – a consortium of Hitachi, rail infrastructure company John Laing and Barclays Bank – was the preferred bidder for a £7.5bn contract to build 1,400 train vehicles under the InterCity Express Programme.

But it has been hit by delays and the new Transport Secretary Philip Hammond is not expected to make a decision until October because of the Government’s cuts programme.

It is estimated building the factory would create 250 jobs, 800 people would be working there within five years and it could also lead to thousands of new jobs in the surrounding area.


Oliver (30/07/2010 09:41:53)
October is the date for the decision on whether the IEP contract with Hitachi (still not finalised) will go ahead at all, not where any assembly plant might be built. At £7.5bn, the IEP contract is very pricey and it is more likely that existing trains will be revamped at a fraction of the cost.

Sly Dig (30/07/2010 14:33:34)
That may be true that existing trains can be revamped at a fraction of the costs, but if you used the trains regularly, you would know the newer ones are foreign built, worsening the balance of payments and the older ones should have been scrapped years ago.
As someone who comes from the Midlands originally, I have seen millions of manufacturing jobs exported so it is right that as a country, we should be investing in manufacturing, it is only by making things that a country can actually generate real wealth. Look what the services industry has done for us. Banks anyone?