Bombardier to cut 700 train building jobs

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The Independent Online

A fresh blow was dealt to Britain's train-building industry yesterday when Bombardier, the Canadian transportation group, announced more than 700 job losses across its UK operations.

A fresh blow was dealt to Britain's train-building industry yesterday when Bombardier, the Canadian transportation group, announced more than 700 job losses across its UK operations.

The company's main train manufacturing facility in Derby will bear the brunt of the latest cuts, with 561 jobs going from a workforce of just under 2,000. A further 165 jobs will be shed at Bombardier's train maintenance plant in Ilford, Essex.

The job losses follow 1,360 redundancies earlier this year at Bombardier's UK train division, 600 of them at Derby, and the closure of three manufacturing and maintenance depots.

A spokeswoman for Bombardier in the UK maintained the latest job cuts were a "worst-case scenario" and would only go ahead if it was unsuccessful in winning new export orders from South Africa and Ireland.

The Derby plant will run out of train-building work in April when it completes orders for almost 2,000 Electrostar and Turbostar cars to replace ageing slam-door trains on commuter networks in southern England.

The factory has an order for more than 1,600 London Underground carriages but manufacturing work will not start until 2008. The remaining workers at Derby and Ilford will be employed on refurbishment and maintenance work until the new orders start. "Both are strategic plants and neither is under threat of closure," the spokeswoman added.

Union officials criticised the way the announcements were handled from Canada, claiming that staff at the two plants had first heard of their fate on the radio. Derek Simpson, the general secretary of the engineering union Amicus, said: "This is yet another blow to the UK train manufacturing industry. The country that invented the train will soon have no capacity to build trains for its own tracks unless there is urgent action."

Bombardier denied the news had slipped out prematurely, insisting it briefed the workforce at both sites at the same time as the announcement was made in Canada.

The Derby plant is Britain's only remaining UK train-building site. Alsthom, the Anglo-French group, closed its Washwood Heath facility in Birmingham last year and moved manufacturing to the Continent, although it continues to carry out refurbishment and maintenance there.

Bombardier also announced a further reduction in output of its CRJ200 regional jet, which could have repercussions for its Shorts plant in Belfast.

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