Halewood jobs secured by £115m Ford project

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The Independent Online

More than 700 jobs on Merseyside were safeguarded yesterday after the go-ahead was given for a £115m investment at Halewood to build a new gearbox for Ford's Focus and Mondeo models.

More than 700 jobs on Merseyside were safeguarded yesterday after the go-ahead was given for a £115m investment at Halewood to build a new gearbox for Ford's Focus and Mondeo models.

The new six-speed manual transmission system, to be produced by the joint venture company Getrag Ford, is being backed by £5m from the Department of Trade and Industry.

Halewood won the new gearbox in competition with rival Getrag Ford sites in Cologne and Bordeaux. Production will begin in 2006 and rise to 400,000 a year, virtually doubling the capacity of the plant.

News of the investment came as fears mounted that more than 300 jobs at the Vauxhall plant at nearby Ellesmere Port could be at risk following the decision by its parent company General Motors to slash its European workforce. Although the vast bulk of the 12,000 job cuts will be in Germany, union officials fear that 340 maintenance and support staff could be made redundant at the Vauxhall plant. GM has lost £1.5bn in Europe over the past four years.

Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, said that the Halewood investment would help make the site "globally competitive".

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