Hitachi Rail Europe today celebrates the first Intercity Express (IEP) train to be built in the UK at its manufacturing facility in Newton Aycliffe.
Hitachi will be joined by the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse Andrew Percy and Ambassador of Japan in the UK, Koji Tsuruoka at a special ceremony on Friday.
The Japanese firm opened the state-of-the-art £82m facility on Aycliffe Business Park in September 2015 as part of its ambition to develop a hub of industry and innovation in the North East.
By Spring 2017, Hitachi will employ approximately 900 people in Aycliffe, and by 2019 the firm says it will employ 2,000 people across 14 UK sites, including manufacturing and maintenance facilities.
A host of British businesses will continue to supply parts for new trains, supporting thousands of additional jobs countrywide.
In addition to building new fleets, Hitachi will maintain the trains at newly built facilities.
By 2020 Hitachi will become one of the largest maintainer of UK trains. In total Hitachi will have 281 trains running on the UK network, carrying millions of passengers along intercity and commuter routes.
The first train leaving Hitachi’s UK production line marks a major milestone ahead of the introduction of IEP, the £5.7bn Government-funded programme to modernise UK intercity travel.
By the end of the programme, Hitachi will have supplied 122 modern intercity trains for passengers travelling on the Great Western and East Coast main lines, offering vastly improved levels of capacity, reliability and comfort.
Managing director Karen Boswell said: “Today is a celebration of the return of train manufacturing to the North East, supporting thousands of jobs and developing a strong engineering skills base in the region.
“Trains running across the country’s rail network will be built by a proud workforce harnessing the best of Hitachi’s long standing rail expertise.
“The company that built the world famous bullet trains is now building the next generation of UK trains, which will deliver a step change in intercity travel, offering more capacity, greater comfort and a lower carbon footprint.”
Managing director of Virgin Trains East Coast, David Horne said: “‘It’s a great privilege to be given a tour of these new facilities which will provide a big economic boost for the North East.
“This factory will also start producing our new Azuma trains in 2017 and we’re looking forward to them entering service and transforming the experience on the east coast.’
Managing director of Great Western Railway, Mark Hopwood added: “The new trains will provide a step change in passenger experience across the Great Western network; and will result in more frequent and faster journeys, and an increase in the number of seats available.
“These, and a range of further passenger benefits, will enable communities and businesses across the Great Western network to prosper.”