The UK's Department of Transport (DfT) today said it had awarded Hitachi's European rail arm a £1.2 billion order to build more train carriages to be used on one of the busiest intercity routes in the UK.
The trains would be introduced on the East Coast Main Line connecting London with Newcastle and Aberdeen in 2018.
Hitachi Rail Europe would build the 270 carriages for the train, called the class 800 series, in the UK. The contract comes after the DfT agreed to an initial order last year for 596 carriages with Agility Trains, a consortium of Hitachi and British infrastructure project manager John Laing.
According to transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, the new order for class 800 series trains formed part of the government's commitment to invest in the UK's infrastructure.
The latest carriage order would become operational on the train line from 2019 boosting passenger capacity by 18 per cent as also slashing journey times between London, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh, the DfT said.
According to Hitachi Rail Europe's chief executive Alistair Dormer, the deal would extend firm orders until the end of the decade at its new factory in County Durham, North-east England, where the carriages would be built.
Hitachi Rail Europe would manufacture 30 nine-car electric trains to replace the Intercity 225 stock that entered service over 20 years ago, said McLoughlin.
Although Hitachi was a Japanese firm, according to The Independent newspaper, the government has insisted that everything from interior lighting built in Essex to gangways manufactured in Derby would come from the UK. The trains themselves would be produced in a County Durham factory that, according to the Department for Transport, represented an £82 million investment in the North-east of England.
The newspaper quoted one industry source as admitting that the decision to go with Hitachi could be ''contentious'', but pointed out that ''these are still British jobs in a global economy''. The source added, nearly all the parts would be manufactured in the UK and it could be safely said that the 'baby bullet' was built in the UK.
McLoughlin said, the trains would not only deliver significant benefits to passengers by slashing journey times and bolstering capacity, but also stimulate economic growth through improved connectivity in some of the UK's biggest cities.
The government also hoped that the order would help the UK develop the skills and manufacturing base to compete for train exports in European markets once again.