Following news today that the government is working urgently with train manufacturer Alstom to secure the jobs of its staff and suppliers in its Derby factory, due to recent stop-start decisions on rolling stock orders, the Railway Industry Association (RIA) and all train manufacturing and refurbishment members with ambitions in the UK are justifiably concerned about what the future holds.
The Department for Transport said today that, “Rail manufacturing plays an important role in growing the UK economy and delivering better services for passengers. The Government remains committed to supporting the entire sector”, and that it is seeking to help develop a sustainable future for the Derby site. Yet only six weeks ago RIA published a report on the UK rolling stock market highlighting the fact that the only significant order in the last three and a half years was the HS2 order announced in December 2021 and that previous orders would soon be completed and consequently factories and upgrade facilities across the country will be empty, putting at risk thousands of jobs unless action was taken soon.
RIA Chief Executive Darren Caplan said: “The potential job losses in Derby being urgently discussed by the DfT and Alstom are of course a real cause for concern for the company, rail manufacturers more widely, the Midlands, and the UK railway industry generally.
“We at the Railway Industry Association highlighted just six weeks ago that rail manufacturing jobs were in jeopardy, that skills and experience could be lost, and that there was a risk of factory closures unless urgent decisions were taken this year to upgrade or replace trains which are already or will soon be 35 years old. In July we said that government decisions were needed imminently to allow the procurement and private financing of rolling stock to be upgraded or replaced, not only to the benefit of the railway sector but also to improve passenger services, reduce carbon and improve air quality.
“In the long term, we urge the Government, working with the railway industry, to develop a strategy which creates a smoother order profile for upgrading older trains and building new trains, giving rail suppliers the confidence to invest in people, plant and processes for a sustainable train manufacturing capability in the UK. But in the meantime, the rail manufacturing industry – which employs over 30,000 people and contributes at least £1.8bn of GVA to the UK economy annually – needs decisions on the building and renewing of rolling stock to be taken immediately, otherwise events in Derby today will be repeated, and rail workers and factories throughout the rail supply chain will face a needlessly anxious future.”
The council has pledged to play its part in supporting the company, and urges government to work with Alstom, as it attempts to mitigate a major fall off in production as a result in delays in new train orders.
Alstom is the UK & Ireland’s leading supplier of new trains and train services, having built, or building, just under 40% of the UK mainline train fleet, as well as the entire fleets in service with London Underground.
The company is one of Derby’s largest private sector employers, employing 2,000 highly skilled people who design and build trains at their Derby Litchurch Lane site, which is the UK’s only train factory.
Alstom provide the widest range of smart solutions in the rail market, from innovative high-speed rolling stock, metros and trams to maintenance, modernisation, infrastructure and signalling.
Councillor Baggy Shanker, Leader of Derby City Council, said he would be taking steps to work with the city employer to understand how Derby City Council could assist and support. “We’re shocked to hear the national media coverage today. The Litchurch Lane factory site is a unique asset for Derby and we understand the impact these job losses will have on our residents and the wider region.
“As a council, we’re ready to play our part and urge the Government and unions to work closely with Alstom to ensure a sustainable future for the factory, which would not only benefit the thousands of staff at the site, but many more across the local supply chain.
“The rail sector is immensely important to the city, and was recognised earlier this year with Derby being named the home for the new Great British Railways headquarters. We stand with Alstom and their workers during this challenging time and pledge to support wherever we can.”
Photo credit: RIA