Labour reaffirms promise to act to save Hitachi train factory in County Durham if elected

Hitachi Rail Europe at Newton Aycliffe.
-Credit: (Image: publicity handout from Hitachi UK)


Labour has reaffirmed its pledges to try and save hundreds of jobs at a North East train factory if it wins the general election.

On a visit to County Durham on Tuesday, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves committed that a Labour government would act to resolve a gap in orders at Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe plant. There have been major fears over recent months that a looming production gap could threaten the future of the Japanese manufacturing giant’s North East operation, with work on Hitachi’s existing contracts expected to decline by this October.

Labour and union leaders have been calling on Tory ministers to trigger an extension to the company’s contract to build trains for the West Coast line in order to protect its 750-strong workforce and Ms Reeves confirmed on Tuesday that a Keir Starmer government would do so, if elected on July 4.

The shadow chancellor told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We back the campaign to keep the factory in Newton Aycliffe and we will do that by doing two things. Firstly, by using the variations in the contract which are possible to bring forward work. And, second, to bring forward new procurement that Hitachi can bid for and are confident that they can win.

“If we do those things we can keep those jobs and keep that factory open in Newton Aycliffe. I am determined to work with Kim [McGuinness, North East mayor] and Alan Strickland to achieve just that.”

As part of sweeping reforms that would see Labour renationalise the country’s passenger rail services, the party has also pledged to end a “boom-and-bust cycle” for train manufacturers with a “long-term strategy” offering far greater certainty over future contracts.

In April, Ms Reeves had warned that a redundancy consultation for Hitachi staff could begin in June. The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands that a formal redundancy process has not yet begun, while Hitachi has previously said it is committed to finding a viable future for its factory.

Labour's shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves visiting Teescraft in Bishop Auckland
Labour's shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves visiting Teescraft in Bishop Auckland -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

The Department for Transport said in April that the Tory government was “committed to supporting the entire sector and is working with all rolling stock manufacturers, including Hitachi, on the future pipeline of orders which we expect to remain strong in the coming years”. Paul Howell, the Conservative candidate for Newton Aycliffe and Spennymoor, accused Labour of pushing a “completely misleading” plan.

He told the LDRS on Wednesday: “The officials at the DfT have absolutely said that the things Labour are claiming can be done with the stroke of a pen cannot be done. If it could have been, then the political imperative for the government would have been to get on and do it.”

Labour’s North East mayor Kim McGuinness, who joined Ms Reeves in Bishop Auckland on Tuesday, said: “I’ll do anything in my power to keep Hitachi and the jobs they bring in Newton Aycliffe. I’ve been working with them for months now to push government into action but the Tories have failed and that’s unforgivable. With the stroke of a pen they could have resolved this but instead they’ve put at risk 750 jobs in the factory and 1,300 in the supply chain.

“It’s very clear things would be different with Labour. I’m delighted to see Rachel Reeves committed to varying Hitachi’s existing contract so they can continue to build trains and to bringing forward new procurement so we can keep growing this vital industry and create more opportunity in the North East.

“With Hitachi I’ve hosted Keir Starmer, Rachel Reeves and transport secretary Lou Haigh. We’ve met workers, we know how proud they are of the trains they build. Now we wait for the outcome of the general election and I hope for a Labour government so we can once and for all secure Hitachi’s future here in our region.”