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Ministers must extend Hitachi train contract to safeguard County Durham jobs

Government incompetence now impacting both Hitachi in Newton Aycliffe and Alstom in Derby


Unite, the UK’s leading union, is demanding ministers extend the West Coach contract at Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe train factory and safeguard jobs.


The factory is currently working on two large contracts for West Coast and East Midlands railways. However, work on these contracts are set to decline by October 2024, with no new contracts in the short term.


The West Coast Railway contract contains an option to purchase more trains that was supposed to be decided upon in March 2023. The delays in decision making by the Department of Transport (DfT) and other parties means the factory is facing a production gap starting in late 2024.


Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The government needs to pull its finger out and tender the extension of the West Coast contract to Hitachi immediately.


“Ministers talk a good game about levelling up. The fact is, however, that at both Hitachi in Newton Aycliffe and Alstom in Debry, workers are in disbelief that ministerial incompetence is delaying announcements that would safeguard highly skilled jobs.


“The right decisions need to be made now for these workers – Unite will be holding the government to account until they are.” 


This month, prime minister Rishi Sunak visited New Aycliffe, where he argued that levelling up has not been a failure. Despite it being one of the biggest employers in County Durham and Sunak being a stone’s throw from the factory, he did not attend the site during his visit.


Unite regional officer Sharon Bailey said: “The government claims to be committed to levelling up in the North but the lack of decision making regarding the West Coast contract extension is the exact opposite of that.


“Rishi Sunak is aware of the issues facing Hitachi in Newton Aycliffe. Tory MP for the constituency, Paul Howells, promised to raise them with him a few weeks ago after to speaking to Unite’s reps at the factory.


“Sunak’s silence on the matter during his visit was shocking. The prime minister needs to put his money where his mouth is on levelling up and get this contract extension announced.”


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