A decision to award a £362m contact to supply and maintain 42 new trains for the Tyne and Wear Metro have been branded a “huge blow” to North-East manufacturing by Stockton North MP, Alex Cunningham – who has called for local politicians to back HS2.
The news by Nexus to award the contract to Swiss firm, Stadler, comes after Hitachi – which is based in Newton Aycliffe – announced earlier this month that 250 jobs will be cut from its plant. Nexus, who have come in to criticism from the Tees Valley Mayor for not choosing a local manufacturer has restated its position that UK procurement law restricts it from awarding contracts on basis of locality.
Now Alex, who led efforts to assist Hitachi earlier in January, has called for political leaders across the divide to put aside political point scoring and look for solutions to help local companies such as Hitachi. One such opportunity Alex has identified is the HS2 project and the promotion of firms such as Hitachi to take on important work linked to this. It’s critical, he said, that the Government backs innovative ideas like partnerships between Hitachi and Bombardier to secure HS2 and other major contracts – failure to do so could be the death knell for the industry particularly given the uncertainty over future trade with EU countries.
The decision to award the Tyne and Wear Metro contract to Stadler is a huge blow to local manufacturers who were sadly victims of stringent UK procurement law. It’s clear that we need an industrial strategy that allows UK companies to win these contracts.
We also need to embrace projects such as HS2 as a great opportunity for companies such as Hitachi and the North-East economy as a whole. Our area is home to a skilled workforce but we need the infrastructure and cross-party political support to ensure our local people are the beneficiaries of big ticket schemes such as HS2.
Given the national debate over HS2 the time is now right for all the Tees MPs and Mayor to publicly back the project which could not just protect existing jobs but create new ones as well.