The Intercity Express Programme is an initiative of the Department for Transport to replace the current Intercity 125 fleet.
March 2011 saw Agility Trains being announced as the winner of the contract to construct and maintain the new trains. The order for the new rolling stock should be placed within this year, with trains expected to be developed and delivered from 2016.
Although the contractual details are still being nailed down, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond’s announcement of a resumption to the IEP (Intercity Express Programme) procurement process effectively brought to an end three months of uncertainty for the economically challenged north-east.
Local politicians and business leaders had mounted an exceptional campaign to attract Agility Trains – the consortium of Hitachi and John Laing – to Newton Aycliffe despite the site not featuring on its initial shortlist of 42 possibilities.
However, readers of Rail.co have expressed their concerns that the manufacturing plant set to be created in Newton Aycliffe is going to be nothing more than an assembly plant, and so the trains will not actually be manufactured in the UK.
Around 11,000 peak-time seats will be added through a fleet comprising 533 vehicles, with the TOCs contributing to their design and specification in some detail.
UNIFE, the European rail industry, has spoken of their alarm at the UK Government’s decision to resume negotiations on the Intercity Express Programme (IEP) with Hitachi.
Hitachi responded with comments such as:
“UNIFE should not be so alarmed by the British Government’s award of the IEP contract to Hitachi. This came after a rigorous competition in which the three largest European Rolling Stock suppliers originally participated.
“Japanese investment has brought jobs and skills to the European automotive, machinery and other sectors without spelling the end of European competitors. In the same way, Hitachi’s investment in the UK is nothing but good news for the British and European rail industry.”