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MPs warn of “dire” consequences if Hitachi plant in County Durham is not saved

North East MPs have again urged the Government to help save the future of the Hitachi rail factory in County Durham, warning that the “consequences of inaction are dire”.

The plant at Newton Aycliffe is at risk because of a shortage of orders in the near term. The company says it has “no obvious or existing solutions” to maintain its current staff of around 700, and the company could start consultations on job losses as early as June.

Easington MP Grahame Morris secured a debate in Parliament to highlight the threat to the Hitachi plant and a similar factory in Derby run by rail firm Alstom. He called on the Government to “go beyond rhetoric” and bring forward existing orders to help the plant survive.

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  • Mr Morris also hit out at the current system in the rail industry that sees trains bought by rolling stock companies and then leased to rail operators.

    He said: “Without action, we will be modernising or replacing our trains with imported units using taxpayers’ money to support thousands of jobs and apprenticeships overseas rather than in the UK. We implore the Minister to act, and to preserve the excellent jobs that we have in our existing manufacturing centres.”

    Mr Morris was backed by fellow County Durham Labour MP Kevan Jones, who said: “We cannot treat the skills that have been developed at Newton Aycliffe like a tap, turning them on when we want them and turning them off when we do not. We have to invest in them and keep them there.

    “Those people’s livelihoods are important. If the next generation of rail workers are to come through, we need the investment and the certainty that those young people will have a future, not just necessarily at Hitachi but in the wider rail industry.”

    The debate also heard from Paul Howell, Conservative MP for Sedgefield, whose constituency includes the Hitachi plant.

    He said: “We need a real solution, not one that looks good but does not deliver.

    “I see real understanding and a commitment to resolve the issue. We are genuinely at an inflection point for the future of UK rail manufacturing. History will judge whether we get it right. For the employees in the rail manufacturing sector, it is imperative that we do.”

    Rail Minister Huw Merriman defended the Government’s record on investment in the railways, saying it had commissioned 8,000 new vehicles since 2010 and had committed to improving rail services in the North.

    He said: “We are really proud of the four train manufacturers we now have in this country. We want to do everything we can to work with them and the individuals working in the wider rail supply chain. Their jobs matter hugely to us.

    “We understand the uncertainty and we are working hard to unblock it. That is why the Government are committed to working with businesses to overcome the challenges and maximise the opportunities ahead, both at home and abroad.”

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