This article is not about boating as such, unless you consider that there may well be a correlation between the demise of many key British manufacturing industries and the demise of many small British boat builders. Read on only if you want to learn what I have to say about the imminent loss of the last British passenger rolling stock manufacturer – the end of yet another era.
Media coverage of the recent UK DfT decision to award the Thameslink passenger rolling stock contract to Siemens Transportation seems to be ramping up. So it bloody well should be, because this DfT decision will almost certainly be instrumental when it comes to the complete closure of the Bombardier Transportation factory in Derby – arguably our last British passenger rolling stock manufacturer! You might well argue that this Bombardier Transportation factory is actually French-Canadian. Nevertheless I would argue that it is still a factory absolutely steeped in British railway vehicle history, a railway legacy. It currently employs around 3000 workers with a very impressive collective wealth of railway engineering experience and knowledge - experience and knowledge that has has taken centuries to evolve and develop and in all probability is about to be, for the most, discarded.
Today we learned that 1500 Bombardier Transportation workers in Derby will soon be losing their jobs; about 50% of the total workforce at this factory. Be sure that the remainder of the workers at this factory will only be employed for as long as it takes to complete the current contracts and then these workers will also be down the road. Then there is the Bombardier Transportation supply chain to consider – no doubt more job losses there. If you believe the theories presented in Evan Davis’s new TV series, all of these workers will soon be ‘re-deployed’ in other thriving British industries, like those engaged in making new fighter aircraft and high-end sports cars – yeah, right, dream on Evan.
I have been around long enough now to witness the demise of principal British industries like British ship building, British motorcycle manufacturing, British truck and commercial vehicle manufacturing, British car manufacturing, the British steel industry, the British mining industry and now fear I am about to see the end of a large part of the British railway industry.
Don’t get me wrong – I am all for achieving cost-effectiveness and I acknowledge that there is a demand for getting the best deal for the tax payer wherever possible. For sure, the BT operation in Derby is not without its problems, just like the manufacturing and other medium to heavy industries I have mentioned above, they had their problems too, but closure or serious winding down is not the answer. I propose that, to succeed, British manufacturing needs more guidance and support from our government and more constructive barriers to importing, etc. put in place. We need a government with greater vision in these areas – can the one we have now possibly measure up? The Jury is out on that one!
We hear of Hitachi and their plans to build a new factory near Darlington and that this factory will employ around 500 workers. To my mind this is not a positive step by any stretch of the imagination. I propose that this will only lead to greater dependence upon Japan and a diversion of the bulk of the wealth generated back to Japan. This approach to manufacture and distribution of wealth is just like that resulting from having cars made at Toyota, Nissan and Honda, etc. in the UK. The first such example for this Hitachi factory will be the wealth derived from manufacturing the new IEP trains for the ECML (another DfT decision!). No doubt this will be followed by the wealth gained at some later date by manufacturing trains that are destined for use elsewhere in the EU – that is unless our EU partners manage to apply the EU rules differently and in so doing keep Hitachi out!
I heard this morning that “Mr Hammond said it was not possible to review the bidding process. His only option would be to cancel the whole Thameslink project, which was already 16 years behind schedule.”
Well cancel it then! Then set about doing your job along with your department colleagues and the other government departments involved, i.e. actually deal with the underlying issues rather than just talking about dealing with them and in so doing depend much less on imported goods. Stop blaming Labour. Currently, as I see things, our leaders are effectively opting for an importation policy with short term gain and long term pain.
Sufficient pressure must be swiftly brought to bear on the UK DfT and the other governmental departments involved and our political ‘leaders’. They must all be compelled to take the steps required to halt and hopefully reverse this trend for placing too much dependence in imported goods, call it another ConDem U-Turn if you like.
Nuff said – for now.