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Rolling Stock Manufacturing: North-east England

Volume 728: debated on Thursday 2 March 2023

14. What recent assessment he has made with Cabinet colleagues of the future viability of rolling stock manufacturing in the north-east. (903831)

Me again, Mr Speaker.

The Government recognise the importance of the rolling stock supply chain on both the national and local economies. Since 2010, over 5,300 vehicles ordered by train operators in the UK have been assembled at manufacturing facilities across the country, reflecting in the region of £10.6 billion on orders for rolling stock built in the UK since 2010.

As we have already heard this morning, Hitachi Rail is one of the anchors of north-east manufacturing expertise and innovation, supporting hundreds of jobs at the Newton Aycliffe site and thousands more in the wider supply chain, and it is incredible that the north-east will have a role in manufacturing the UK’s very first high speed trains for HS2. However, in the interim will the Minister now provide urgent clarity on the short-term rolling stock pipeline so that this exemplar of north-east manufacturing continues to support regional and economic growth long into the future?

I was up in the north-east, in Tyne and Wear, last week, where it was a pleasure to meet the Tyne and Wear Metro Nexus team as they unveiled their new Class 555 trains, and I wish them well in that endeavour. Hitachi was one of the bidders for that and of course over 1,000 carriages have been built at the Newton Aycliffe plant, including orders for Great Western, TransPennine Express, East Midlands Railway and West Coast. I will happily write to the hon. Lady to give her the answer she seeks, but I assure her that I am supportive of all our great railway manufacturers in this country.

Last month I was delighted to visit the Hitachi Rail manufacturing facility in Newton Aycliffe, where 800 highly skilled employees are delivering world-class manufacturing excellence. They told me that they need certainty from the Government, but briefings, leaks and rumour about the future of HS2 are pouring out of this Department. Will the Minister categorically deny that his Department is working on any plans that would slash what is left of the eastern leg and leave Yorkshire and the north-east permanently entirely cut off by cutting high-speed platforms at Euston?

I hope I made it clear, in answer to one of the hon. Member’s colleagues who was not as supportive of HS2 as I am, that we are absolutely committed to delivering HS2 trains from London to Manchester and going over to the east as well, but of course we have to look at cost pressures. It is absolutely right that HS2 focuses on costs; that should be expected of the Government and the taxpayer. We will continue to do so, but I can tell the hon. Member that I am absolutely committed, as are the Secretary of State and the entire Department, to delivering HS2 and the benefits for this country.