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Lining up to jump on the Hitachi train
2:49pm Wednesday 5th September 2012 in Business
THE success of the Hitachi deal at Newton Aycliffe has sparked negotiations about creating a second large business park nearby, a reception at the House of Commons last night was told.
Work on the Amazon Park site is due to start in the new year, with diggers preparing the foundations for Hitachi’s train-building factory, which will employ 730 people, next September.
But Michael Chicken, chief executive of the Merchant Place developers, told MPs and business leaders: “We have begun initial discussions beyond Amazon Park.
“We are getting such strong demand for the site from Hitachi suppliers and other potential occupiers that it makes sense to keep that going. There is a similar sized site very close to Amazon Park.”
The Northern Echo understands negotiations have begun with the private owner.
Hitachi is taking a third of Amazon Park – 460,000sq ft – and Mr Chicken said that as well as companies connected to Hitachi, a green energy generator is talking about filling the rest of the site.
“It’s early stages at the moment, but it could be exciting,” said Mr Chicken, who paid tribute to the couple of hundred private investors who first put money into Amazon Park in 2007.
Hitachi’s Aycliffe plant manager, Darren Cumner, told the reception that the factory was due to start building the first of the 596 vehicles for the Intercity Express Programme (IEP).
“It will be about 2020 when we finish the programme, but we are already in discussions to make sure we are building this factory for the future.”
Hitachi is bidding for other train-building contracts in the UK and mainland Europe.
The reception, hosted by Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson and Durham County Council, was to commemorate the signing of the IEP deal by the Government in July. This means it will be unaffected by yesterday’s Cabinet reshuffle which saw a new Transport Secretary installed.
Mr Cumner said: “This is where the journey really begins. Until now it has just been a business plan, but now it has got the green light.”
The reception was attended by most North-East MPs, and by Chukka Umunna, the Shadow Business Secretary who is a rising star in the Labour Party.
Several speakers praised The Northern Echo for its role in the Back on Track campaign which helped bring Hitachi to Aycliffe.
Mr Wilson said: “This sort of event gives the county the opportunity to tell others that Durham is a great place to live, work and do business. Now the deal has been signed, it will have brilliant repercussions for the county – it has the potential to be to the south of Durham and the Tees Valley what Nissan is to the north.”
Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, said: “Hitachi will create thousands of manufacturing jobs at the factory and in the supply chain – it will showcase County Durham on a global level.
“As we move to the next stage of the project, it is good to remember that 40 other locations across the UK bid for Hitachi and Newton Aycliffe came out on top, because of its people, its location and the availability of land. We hope it will be a catalyst for the whole area.”