Train building rivals Bombardier and Hitachi will join forces to bid for a £2.75bn contract to build high-speed trains in the UK.
They had previously submitted separate bids for the contract.to design, build and maintain at least 54 new high-speed trains.
The trains will be used for phase 1 of the £55.7bn high-speed (HS2) railway, which will link London and Birmingham from December 2026.
They will also serve destinations on conventional lines beyond the core HS2 network, including York, Newcastle, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Manufacturing would be expected to be split between Canadian firm Bombardier’s plant in Derby and Hitachi’s factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.
Image: Bombardier employs thousands of workers in the UK
The firms, which also have maintenance facilities across Britain, employ more than 5,000 people in the country.
Bombardier and Hitachi described themselves as a “tried and tested high-speed team”, having already built a high-speed train for Italy.
Hitachi managing director Karen Boswell said the firms will “draw on a huge wealth of UK experience”.
She added: “Our aim is to deliver a new British icon that will be recognised around the world – a Spitfire for the British railway.”
Richard Hunter, Bombardier’s UK managing director said: “We will combine both companies’ global high-speed expertise with unrivalled British experience, and help generate skills and prosperity across a number of UK regions.”
The formal tendering process is due to start later this year, with the winner announced in late 2019.
Four other bidders have also been shortlisted – Alstom Transport, Patentes Talgo, Siemens and CAF.
CAF’s bid failed to make the shortlist announced in November last year, but an HS2 Ltd spokesman said it has been added “to ensure a robust competition” following the decision by Bombardier and Hitachi to form a partnership.
The award of UK train-building contracts to foreign firms with overseas manufacturing plants has been criticised in recent years.
In 2011, Germany-based Siemens was handed a £1.6bn deal to build trains for London’s Thameslink, and in 2016 Spanish company CAF won a £490m contract to manufacture trains for Arriva Rail North.
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Alstom opened a train technology and manufacturing facility in Widnes, Cheshire, in June last year, while CAF will open a train factory in Newport, Wales, this autumn.
Another Spanish manufacturer, Talgo, is planning to build a factory in the UK and has visited potential locations in Leeds and Liverpool.