Train builder does away with 900 jobs: Rail privatisation plans blamed by unions for ABB Transportation's lack of orders

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BRITAIN'S biggest train builder, ABB Transportation, yesterday sacked almost 900 workers, blaming the severe reduction in orders from British Rail.

The job losses were accompanied by a warning from the company, formerly British Rail Engineering Limited, that the survival of the domestic rolling stock industry was at risk from a lack of work.

The redundancies will be spread across ABB Transportation's three sites in Derby, York and Crewe and will reduce the workforce to about 5,200 compared with more than 30,000 in the early 1980s. Last year the company cut 2,755 jobs.

The rail unions blamed the job losses on the planned privatisation of BR, which has resulted in new rolling stock orders virtually drying up while the network is carved up into franchises.

Bo Sodersten, chief executive of ABB Transportation, said: 'It is essential that our domestic customers are in a position to continue a programme of steady order replacement if Britain's railway industry is to survive.'

The company deeply regretted the redundancies but, faced with its current order book and the need to safeguard the jobs of most of the workforce, it had been left with no option. Of the 900 job losses 532 will fall on the York works, where work will run out in August 1994 when it completes an order from Network SouthEast for Networker 465 trains.

There will be 273 redundancies at Derby, which will finish work on an order for London Underground trains at the end of next year, and 91 at Crewe.

Railway industry leaders warned earlier this year that the sector faced 'annihilation' unless the hiatus in orders ended.

BR has been allowed to order pounds 150m worth of leased rolling stock and is at present deciding whether to spend the money on more Networker 465 trains or on InterCity 225 trains for the West Coast main line, which would be built by GEC Alsthom.

Jimmy Knapp, general secretary of the RMT rail union, said: 'This is a tragedy for 900 families, a devastating blow for Derby and York and a savage indictment of the Government's privatisation strategy.'

Brian Wilson, Labour's transport spokesman, forecast that thousands more jobs could go because of the 'blight' created by privatisation. 'If nobody knows who is going to be running the trains in two years' time how can they be expected to place orders?' he added.