It’s being reported that Aycliffe giant Hitachi Rail is set to miss out on the £500m Tyne and Wear Metro deal – to a Spanish rival.
It’s understood Nexus – the public body which owns and manages the Tyne and Wear Metro, to design, build and maintain the new fleet of trains – is set to overlook Hitachi with the contract, which would have safeguarded hundreds of Aycliffe jobs for several years.
From 2022, the existing metro fleet will be replaced with brand new high technology trains and maintained at a newly-constructed site at Gosforth, Newcastle.
Hitachi teamed up with Hull-headquartered Spencer Group on its bid to land the mega deal.
The Nexus blow would be the second big disappointment in the last year for Hitachi, after the Aycliffe manufacturer missed out on a £1.5 billion contract to build 94 new Deep Tube trains to serve the London Underground’s Piccadilly line.
That deal was awarded by Transport for London (TfL) to Siemens Mobility, and it was later revealed two thirds of the work would be done in Austria.
Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson said: “If it is true, I think the decision is absolutely outrageous and a real kick in the teeth for the region.
“I always said it would be great to have trains for the North-East, made in the North-East, and I will be speaking to Hitachi and Nexus to get some clarity on the situation.”
Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen added: “Tyne and Wear councils who have complete control over this contract have failed to protect a major North-East business and local jobs.
“Instead, they have awarded this £500m to a foreign company to the detriment of the local area.
“The new Nexus trains will be built by a foreign company, rather than one just down the road. We must stop this madness.
“Given the importance of this decision and the fact that the official award hasn’t been announced there is still time for a full and urgent review into this decision.
“I’m calling on the Tyne and Wear councils to pause on the awarding of this contract and to review this perverse decision and I implore other local leaders and MPs to back this call.
“Trains built locally by Hitachi Rail can be found on railways around the world, but because of this horrendous decision this is being put at risk.
“It’s taken years to bring Hitachi to the North East and to make them the powerhouse that they are, much of which was led by the Northern Echo in a long-standing campaign.
“If the result of all that work is Labour councils awarding contracts that should stay local to foreign competitors, then my view is that these councils have lost their way.”
It hasn’t all been bad news for Hitachi recently.
In July this year, Abellio UK awarded the firm a £400m contract to build a pioneering new fleet of intercity trains for East Midlands Railway (EMR).
The new state-of-the-art intercity trains will start operating in 2022 and will serve the main cities and towns on the Midland Main Line including Sheffield, Chesterfield, Nottingham, Derby, Leicester and Lincoln as well as Kettering and London St Pancras.
Hitachi are also in the running – in a joint bid with Bombardier – for the £2.75bn contract to supply at least 54 high-speed trains for phase one of Britain’s High Speed 2 (HS2) line.
Hitachi and Bombardier are going up against Siemens, Alstom and Talgo and CAF for the contract, which is due to be awarded in early 2020.