Suppliers of Alstom’s embattled Derby plant are already facing liquidation, its UK chief has warned, as a six-week deadline for clarity over its future rapidly approaches.
Alstom is consulting up to 1,300 job cuts at its Litchurch Lane factory, which has no confirmed workload beyond the first quarter of 2024. A lack of new rolling stock orders and the decision to axe the northern leg of HS2 has plunged the site into chaos, and its closure is not off the cards.
Nick Crossfield, the French employer’s UK and Ireland managing director, told parliament’s Transport Select Committee the supply chain was “already showing liquidations.”
“My paint supplier is going into insolvency. I have a major on-site embedded supplier, on the site that supplies my wiring looming [which] employs about 700 people permanently on the site. They have announced to their workforce this week, end of January, it’s done.”
“The timing of these decisions is critical because if I don’t get clarity in the next six weeks, and it is six weeks guys, it all goes.”
Alstom’s Derby facility employs 3,000 people and supports around 15,000 jobs in the wider supply chain. The French supplier is currently engaged in backroom discussions with ministers and officials in the Department for Transport (DfT) over the future of Litchurch Lane post-January.
In a worst-case scenario, it would instead look to import from regions including the Middle East, North Africa and China. “It’s a very different supply chain, and once you lose it guys, you don’t get it back. You do not get it back, you do not get it back, you do not get it back,” Crossfield warned.
Some 70 per cent of the company’s supply chain spend is UK-directed, with the rest spent internationally. Crossfield said he could convert Litchurch Lane “to a facility employing 300 people, importing major subsystems and structures from abroad.”
“It’s not [a decision] that I want to make and it’s not one that I believe the company should make, but that is why we are actively trying to persuade the stakeholders in this country, you need this capability. Because the capability you have is not just about producing trains for the UK market.”
The Litchurch Lane facility is currently working on the back end of rolling stock orders used on numerous networks, including the Elizabeth Line in London. Alstom acquired the business as part of its takeover of Canada’s Bombardier three years ago.
In a November letter to the Transport Secretary Mark Harper, Alstom, Transport for London and the Unite Union warned urgent funding was needed for the delivery of new Elizabeth Line trains, to avoid further job cuts and overcrowding on the route.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Rail manufacturing is an important part of the UK economy and we will work closely with Alstom as it continues to deliver its contractual commitments, as we do with all rolling stock manufacturers.”
“While this is a commercial matter for the company, we have already set up a dedicated cross-government taskforce to properly support workers at Alstom during what will be a concerning time.”