LONDON (Reuters) - Hitachi confirmed on Monday the awarding of a 16-year contract for the 4 billion pound (5.16 billion pounds) upgrade of Britain’s West Coast Main Line train service, safeguarding 1,000 jobs at the Japanese company’s sprawling plant near Newcastle.

Workers work at the Hitachi manufacturing plant near Newcastle, northeast England November 19, 2010. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

The Southern, East and West franchises have been without a train operator since September when First Group cancelled its contract over financial difficulties, leaving 1,560 jobs in question.

A new contract for the 35,000-mile (56,056 km) railway between London and Scotland was awarded to Canadian-Japanese consortium Hitachi Rail Europe-National Express ahead of rival bids by Capco, New York-based Amtrak and NR Group.

“The impressive bid value demonstrated the vital importance of the West Coast Main Line to travel between London and Scotland for millions of commuters and tourists,” rail minister Jesse Norman said in a statement.

The new contract is subject to the British government having approval from the European Commission for Hitachi to secure rail subsidy funding.

Including maintenance, Hitachi would be operating services for one in every seven passenger journeys on the service, according to Hitachi’s win statement.

In August, Hitachi said it would focus on serving its existing rail clients rather than hoping to win new work from the West Coast service.

Hitachi Rail Europe Chief Executive Hiromasa Yonekura said the company’s ability to guarantee financial backstops on the contract had delivered this win to Hitachi Rail Europe.

“Now our size and capabilities can be used on more projects,” he said.

Hitachi produces rail cars for the East and West franchises using Rolls-Royce engines and, earlier this month, Britain’s First Group agreed to a 380 million pound deal with Hitachi Rail Europe to buy two 700cc passenger coaches.