Work has begun to pave way for thousands of new jobs which will bring with them an economic boost of half a billion bounds for the North East.
An expected 3,200 jobs will be generated by the plans in County Durham, with preparations under way by Durham County Council.
With £13 million funding from the Local Enterprise Partnership, the council is carrying out work to prepare the 52 hectare Forrest Park site in Newton Aycliffe.
This additional site will expand and even further develop Aycliffe Business Park - which lies adjacent to the Hitachi Rail site - already the largest business park in the region.
The works, due to be completed by the end of autumn 2017, will see construction of a new, signalised junction on the A167 - for better access to both the new site and
Aycliffe Business Park – and an internal link road and a power substation.
The improvements are designed to remove existing barriers to the continued success and further expansion of Aycliffe Business Park.
By doing so it is hoped that it will unlock a potential investment of nearly £140 million from the private sector to develop the site including, due to its location, a possible rail freight interchange. It’s estimated the site could see the creation of 3,200 jobs and deliver a Gross Value Added (GVA) of £495million over the next 20 years.
Councillor Simon Henig, council leader, said: “The decision by Hitachi to bring rail manufacturing back to its spiritual home in County Durham provided us with the opportunity of a lifetime.
"The significant role the Council played in that decision, along with our partners, remains one of my proudest moments with the authority.
“To add to the success of what is already the largest business park in the region, by unlocking the new development on Forrest Park we hope to bring forward over 3,000 jobs
and add almost half a billion pounds to the economy over the next twenty years.
"This investment will firmly shine a light on Durham, demonstrating what a great place the county is for business.”
Councillor Neil Foster, cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “Aycliffe Business Park has been phenomenally successful, creating thousands of local jobs.
"By removing the barriers to its expansion we will create the perfect environment for the private sector to step forward and make the most of the opportunities provided by Hitachi Rail, its wider supply chain and the cluster of manufacturing industries in the area.
“As a result we hope that Forrest Park becomes the next great success story for County Durham, bringing thousands of new jobs to the area and putting millions of pounds into our
Darren Cumner, manufacturing plant manager at Hitachi Rail said: “This expansion is excellent news for the area and the wider economy.
"It will firmly put County Durham on the map as a county which stimulates investment and regeneration, and we are delighted to be part of it.”
The preparatory groundworks are due to be completed by the end of the year with the substation, link road and junction completed by autumn 2017.