Britain’s rail manufacturing renaissance could be shunted into the sidings Unite warned today (Wednesday 30 January), as it urged the government to support UK manufacturing, jobs and skills by investing in rail infrastructure and awarding new rolling stock contracts to UK factories.

The call, in a letter from Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner to the transport secretary Chris Grayling comes on the same day as Unite signs a recognition agreement covering over 750 workers at Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe train manufacturing facility.

Government warning

The letter warns government ministers that high quality skilled jobs which sustain communities across the UK could be hit unless the government brings forward new passenger train contracts and awards them to companies manufacturing in the UK.

The recognition agreement with Hitachi Rail strengthens the voice of the workforce at Newton Aycliffe by securing collective representation and bargaining. The £100 million site is home to the new Azuma train for the East Coast Mainline and has already led to a spend of over £628 million with 1,168 UK suppliers.

World class workforce

Commenting Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe site is home to a world class workforce and is a powerhouse of the regional economy. It nurtures key manufacturing skills, brings desperately needed investment and sustains jobs throughout the area’s supply chain.

“All this hard work could be short lived, with the UK’s rail manufacturing renaissance shunted into the sidings, if the government doesn’t bring forward the investment needed to upgrade our regional and intercity networks and award contracts for new rolling stock to UK based train manufacturers as part of a proper industrial strategy supporting UK Plc.

“As the union representing workers employed across UK train manufacturing, Unite looks forward to working constructively with Hitachi Rail and ensuring Newton Aycliffe goes from strength to strength with a secure future and a strong collective voice for the workforce.”    


For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.


Notes to editors  

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.


30th January 2019

Chris Grayling MP
Secretary of State for Transport
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road

Copy: Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State, BEIS.

Dear Secretary of State,

The future of UK rail rolling stock manufacturing

I am pleased to inform you that today Unite signed a recognition agreement covering workers at Hitachi Rail’s Newton Aycliffe manufacturing facility. We will represent the collective interests of the 730 hardworking men and women building modern trains for the UK’s rail network, including the new Azuma trains for East Coast main line.

As the union representing workers involved in the manufacture of trains across the UK, I am writing to you on behalf of all of our members urging you to support UK manufacturing jobs and skills, alongside the regional economies and communities sustained by them. You can do this by bringing forward desperately needed investment in both our regional and intercity networks and ensuring that new contracts for rolling stock are integrated into a renewed industrial strategy, supporting both UK Plc and manufacturing operations here in the UK.

While our members at Bombardier are working along with their colleagues at Hitachi in a joint bid for the new HS2 trains, Unite and our members in Newton Aycliffe are increasingly concerned that without new work, when Hitachi’s current orders for new trains run out in spring 2020, there are currently no new orders in the pipeline. This situation puts long term investment, jobs and skills at risk along with our capacity to build desperately needed rolling stock here in the UK in the future.

In addition to hundreds of high value high quality jobs created in the North East, Hitachi has invested over £100m in its UK factory, and has spent over £628m with over 1,168 suppliers across the country. The company has also created a long-term skills legacy through investment in the nearby South Durham University Technical College. However, without a commitment to supporting UK manufacturing from government, these are under threat too.

Given the above, I am today calling on the government to support the long-term investment commitments of UK based manufacturers. With government investment in rolling stock and rail network development already long overdue, particularly across our northern networks, there is the potential for long-term stability in the sector securing jobs and skills alongside apprenticeships at all UK factories.

It is our view that UK taxpayers money should be spent supporting the UK economy, ensuring that new orders are judged on the long-term value they create for the regional and national economy, alongside good jobs supporting families and local communities. The Department for Transport should recognise the multiplier dividend to spending money here in the UK and actively support those companies who have localised supply chains and maximised UK content in the build process.

The government’s own Industrial Strategy claims to support UK manufacturing and rebalancing the economy, but to Unite members facing an uncertain future this looks like lip service and hollow promises. I urge you to protect rail manufacturing in both the North East and across the UK by ensuring the benefits of investment from companies, like Hitachi Rail, do not go to waste.

I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the above in greater detail and how we can work together for the mutual benefit of UK rail manufacturing and those workers whose livelihoods rely upon it as well as the wider UK economy.

Yours sincerely

Steve Turner

Assistant General Secretary