A £4.5bn deal to build and maintain intercity express trains ,which will help create 900 new jobs, has finally been announced.
The much-delayed contract will see Agility Trains - a consortium led by the Japanese firm Hitachi - build 596 rail carriages at a new factory in County Durham.
It was announced as new figures confirmed that the UK economy has contracted for a third quarter in a row.
The first trains are due to enter service on the Greater Western Main Line in 2017 and on the East Coast Main Line by 2018.
The project to replace the Intercity 125 trains will create 730 skilled jobs at the Newton Aycliffe factory and another 200 during the construction of the plant itself, where Hitachi (Stuttgart: 853219 - news) will assemble a fleet of 92 complete trains.
The company will also locate its European rail research and development capabilities on the site, which will enhance the factory's ability to win rail contracts across Europe (Chicago Options: ^REURUSD - news) .
As well as building the new state-of-the-art assembly facility, Hitachi will construct maintenance depots in Bristol, Swansea, west London and Doncaster, and will upgrade existing depots throughout Britain.
Agility was announced as the preferred bidder for the Intercity Express Programme (IEP) in early 2009, but it has taken more than three years for the deal to be finalised.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening described it as "fantastic news for Britain".
"Hitachi is the latest major international company to invest on this scale in Britain and I look forward to this new factory in County Durham following in the footsteps of Nissan's successful car plant in Sunderland," she said.
"There can also be fewer stronger signs that the UK is the best place in which to invest, and from which to develop new markets, than Hitachi's decision to base its European manufacturing base right here in Britain."
The new trains will have more seats and generally more space than existing high-speed trains and will accelerate faster than current rolling stock.
The IEP announcement follows last week's announcement of further electrification on the Great Western Main Line between London and Swansea.
Together, the new trains and infrastructure will offer the potential for journey time savings of 15 minutes in Swansea to London journeys and 21 minutes in Bristol to London journeys.
Passengers travelling on the East Coast line will also see improvements to their travelling experience, as journeys between London and Newcastle (Frankfurt: 725198 - news) will potentially be reduced by 13 minutes with the forthcoming East Coast franchise.
Construction at the Newton Aycliffe site is expected to begin in 2013 and it will be fully operational by 2015.