An urgent letter has been sent to the Government calling for funding to save jobs at Alstom’s Derby factory after the firm announced hundreds of roles in the city could be at risk.
A joint letter written by Transport for London, Alstom and the union Unite is calling for cash to effectively allow the Litchurch Lane factory to make more essential trains, serving the capital, and to narrow its production gap and potentially save jobs.
Transport for London wants more trains to be made to serve London’s Old Oak Common station – currently under construction – which is set to be a terminating stop for the HS2 line between London and Birmingham. The new station is set to become "one of the country’s most vital transport super-hubs".
It comes just days after Alstom said it would be exploring making redundancies, with more than 500 permanent roles and almost 800 temporary ones potentially at risk. The Derby factory has a workforce of around 2,000 people.
However, it has been reported that affected workers have been told they could be made redundant by March/April next year and that morale at the site "is at an all-time low".
Rail leaders are also worried over jobs being lost in Alstom’s supply chain following last week’s announcement by the train-making company.
The letter starts: "We are jointly writing to ask you to help save jobs and support growth in the East Midlands and London."
Alstom recently made trains to serve London’s new Elizabeth Line which opened last year. The letter calls on Transport Minister Mark Harper to confirm funding so an order for around five new trains can be made.
It states: "Alstom Engineering is ready to deliver additional Class 345 Elizabeth Line trains, needed to enable effective operation while Old Oak Common is the terminus of High Speed 2 (HS2). However, in order for Transport for London to place the order, we need you [the Government] to urgently confirm funding for these trains.
"Without this commitment, TfL is not able to place an order within Alstom’s remaining production window to manufacture the trains in Derby, which will result in the demobilisation of Alstom’s production facilities for the AVENTRA platform of trains.
"The additional trains will enable TfL to operate a higher frequency of services to Old Oak Common to relieve wait times at the station, reduce crowding on trains and provide shorter journey times for more customers using Old Oak Common station.
"Relying on the existing services on the Western Route would undercut the benefits brought by introducing high-speed rail travel between Birmingham and London.
"It would be detrimental to the local area as it would fail to cater for the growing community around the station which has 26,000 homes and 56,000 new jobs in the pipeline."
An Alstom worker, who lives in Derby, said he has been told he is set to lose his job in March next year. The staff member, who did not wish to be named, said he was deeply hurt by the situation and events over the last few days.
He said: "I’m gutted but the company has known for a long time that this was going to happen. It’s awful – there are people who have been here for many years. Sadly it looks like the site will be finishing.
"Everyone is down and it’s not a nice place to be. Morale is at an all-time low but that is to be expected. It’s going to have an impact on people’s families. It’s a massive blow to Derby. Families have worked here for 150 years and it’s such a shame it’s come to this."
An Alstom spokesperson said: "Alstom UK has been working with Government for the last six months with the joint objective of securing a sustainable future for our rolling stock factory at Derby Litchurch Lane, which has no confirmed workload beyond the first quarter of 2024.
"No committed way forward has yet been found and therefore it is with deep regret that we must now begin to plan for a significant reduction in activity at Derby by entering a period of collective consultation on potential redundancies at Litchurch Lane.
"We will fully support our dedicated colleagues during this exceptionally difficult time.
"The UK remains one of Alstom’s most important global markets and we will continue to operate 36 sites throughout the country across our rolling stock, services, and digital and integrated systems businesses.
"We look forward to fulfilling our commitments on HS2 and successfully competing for rolling stock opportunities across the UK in the future.
"We remain open-minded as to the future of non-production functions located at Litchurch Lane and to potential future alternative uses for the Derby site.
"We will begin an extensive review of options, and will fully involve our stakeholders in this process."
Meanwhile, there have also been reports of jobs being under threat at Motherson – a global company with an office in Derby on Litchurch Lane which supplies Alstom and other companies. Workers are said to be "upset, angry and confused".
Over the weekend, a petition calling to save rail manufacturing jobs in Derby has been signed by more than 400 people. The petition has been launched by Bill Greenshields of the Derby People’s Assembly campaign group.
It says: "Our town [Derby] is to be stripped of railway engineering and the jobs will be scrapped forever – for this and future generations. In 2011 Derby faced the same challenge when Bombardier owned the industry. The whole town refused to accept it – 10,000 Derby people campaigned and marched against it – and we won. We can do so again!"
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: "We have been engaging extensively with TfL and Alstom on this issue for months and are continuing to work with them. A dedicated cross-Government taskforce has also been set up to properly support workers during what will be a concerning time."The Transport Secretary will respond to the letter shortly."
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