Rail Manufacturing: Job Losses - Commons Urgent Question

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:48 pm on 17 April 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

The following Answer to an Urgent Question was given in the House of Commons on Tuesday 16 April.

“I thank the honourable Lady for her Urgent Question. I am responding on behalf of the Secretary of State, who will shortly be meeting the Alstom group chairman and chief executive to discuss a potential way forward. The Secretary of State will come to the House and make a Statement at the appropriate time, noting the fact that they are sensitive commercial discussions.

As set out in the comprehensive open letter from the Secretary of State to the honourable Lady on 29 March, the Government are well aware that companies such as Alstom and Hitachi face short-term gaps in their order books. The letter set out clearly that these are complex problems to which there are not simple solutions, but the Government have been doing everything they can to support the workforce over many months, and continue to do so.

While Alstom is currently consulting its unions and employees on possible job losses, this must be a commercial decision for Alstom. The Government have been working with the company to explore options to enable it to continue manufacturing at its Derby site. We have convened a cross-Whitehall group to advise on how to support continued production at Derby and how best to support those workers who are at risk of redundancy. We have held similar discussions with Hitachi, both in correspondence and face to face. We remain keen to work with Hitachi as it looks for commercial solutions to guarantee the long-term sustainable future of its Newton Aycliffe site. Hitachi is not currently consulting on any changes to its workforce.

The fact remains that the market for passenger trains is a competitive one. The department cannot guarantee orders for individual manufacturers. Trains are major assets with a lifetime of 35 to 40 years, so there will naturally be peaks and troughs in the procurement cycle. Nevertheless, we expect substantial continued demand for new trains. In recent months, London North Eastern Railway confirmed an order of 10 new tri-mode trains for the east coast main line. A tender for new trains for TransPennine Express was launched in December 2023.

In January this year, I wrote to train manufacturers to outline the pipeline of current and expected orders for new trains. That included details of current competitions for Northern, Southeastern, Chiltern and TransPennine Express, and an expected procurement by Great Western Railway. The contracts are worth an estimated £3.6 billion, with more than 2,000 vehicles to be procured over the coming years. In the meantime, we will continue to work with UK manufacturers, including Alstom and Hitachi, to ensure that there is a strong and sustainable future for the rail industry”.