Monday, 17 January 2011

Hitachiballs: Rising Sun flies over Derby?

Telegrammed by Howard Wade
This from the Northern Echo on the 13th January...

THE Japanese government yesterday lobbied ministers to urge them not to reject Hitachi’s £7.5bn plans to bring train building back to the region.

Shin Ebihara, the country’s ambassador to the UK, requested the meeting with Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, as one of his last acts before leaving the post.

Meanwhile, it is understood that Yutaka Banno, Japan’s Foreign Secretary, is also attempting to secure talks at the Department for Transport (Dft), when he arrives in Britain next week.

The powerful twin-pronged lobbying operation underlines the huge importance of the Intercity Express Programme (IEP) to the world’s third-biggest economy – as well as to the North-East.

Neil Foster, Northern TUC campaigns officer, said: “Why hasn’t the Government yet committed to the Agility consortium, which would create 800 direct and 7,500 indirect British jobs? Why are they considering an off-theshelf option overseas?

Diesel locomotives are made in Germany and the US, while most electric trains are manufactured in Germany, France and Spain, although some are made in Derby by Bombardier.

Presumably the East Midlands TUC Campaigns Officer is asleep?

Is Bombardier's Management unable to see any problem in a foreign train manufacturer whose home market is protected from international competition lobbying to put Derby Litchurch Lane out of business?

And, Hello!, is anyone awake at the Derby and Derbyshire Rail Forum?

Why aren't East Midlands MPs being primed to defend skilled local manufacturing jobs in Derby with the same vim and vigour as North Eastern MPs push for unskilled assembly roles on their patch?

No doubt the Hon Members for Derby and Derbyshire will become highly vocal once it is all too late and the closure notice is posted on the gates of Litchurch Lane!

Meanwhile our ever cost conscious Government must be absolutely delighted by Hitachi's insistence that it should receive a £15 million bung towards the cost of a new assembly plant in the North East?

As for the TUC's lobbying, even Tokyo Rose knew that you needed a modicum of accuracy to make propaganda convincing.

Apart from 'some' electric trains being built at Derby (actually about 5 vehicles a week at present) roughly 20% of the content-by-value of the new Pendolinos is being manufactured at Preston, Lancs. This is high added value traction equipment, not a mere spanner and screwdriver fitting-out job which apparently Foster San thinks more important than the real high tech British design and manufacturing jobs which could be lost.

Would any politician or civil servant recognise the long term value of an industrial strategy?

That is, of course, a rhetorical question.

UPDATE: This from a Mr Reginald Slicker

You do the hard pressed British rail traveller no favours with your jingoistic attempts to stem the tide of international trade and keep the Derby factory manufacturing trains when superior products are available from abroad.

If you had your way, passengers on South Eastern's high speed services would not be travelling in the lightest trains in Britain with better reliability and availability figures way exceeding that achieved by European manufacturers.

I remain, Sir, R Slicker