The milestone for the facility follows several months of testing for Japanese-made Azuma trains on the route. The factory employs 730 permanent staff and 50 apprentice graduates.

Azuma is due to begin carrying passengers later this year along the East Coast main line, connecting London and Yorkshire, and from 2019 running in Scotland.

Hitachi has designed the trains using their Japanese bullet train technology, with the front of the train using a sleek aerodynamic design. With much faster acceleration passengers can expect their journey times to be cut once the fleet is fully introduced. The name Azuma means “east” in Japanese, an acknowledgement of Hitachi’s roots and Japan’s advanced railways.

“Newton Aycliffe continues to go from strength to strength, now building three separate fleets to serve passengers across the country," said Karen Boswell, MD of Hitachi Rail Europe. “Our pioneering Azuma trains, inspired by Japanese bullet trains, will transform journeys on the East Coast main line. By building them at Newton Aycliffe, we are supporting thousands of jobs with a strong British supplier base.”

“We’re delighted that manufacturing has now commenced on Azuma in County Durham," added David Horne, managing director of LNER, who operate the East Coast Mainline. "Our customers can expect a fleet of high-tech, modern trains that will deliver more seats and space, as well as faster journeys. Azuma will play a key role in revolutionising travel on the east coast mainline, delivering first-class service as well as extra services for Bradford, Lincoln, Harrogate and Edinburgh."