French rolling stock manufacturer Alstom said it has “run out of time” to save its Litchurch Lane plant in Derby, UK, which it procured as part of its takeover of Bombardier in 2021. 

As a result of an 18-month production gap at the site, Alstom has been discussing solutions for its 1,300+ employees in Derby with government, including Transport Minister Mark Harper. 

“We have worked constructively with the government on securing a sustainable future for Derby Litchurch Lane, but after 10 months of discussions we have run out of time, and the production lines have stopped. We will now consult with our staff, with trades unions and with our UK supply chain to provide as much certainty as we can,” Alstom said in a statement. 

In a letter to Harper, Alstom’s UK managing director Nick Crossfield blamed the UK Government’s slow procurement activity for the collapse in manufacturing at the site. 

Despite promises, Crossfield said tender processes for at least four train operating companies, that would have helped fill the gap, have “still not been issued.” 

“We have been given no visibility on their timing,” he added.

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Although Alstom and Hitachi won a joint venture contract for HS2 rolling stock in 2021, both firms have complained that delays to the project (and cancellation of the northern leg to Manchester) have caused production issues at their sites. 

Hitachi was forced to write down the value of its plant in the UK in December and is reportedly “reviewing all remaining options to ensure the future of [its] UK business”. 

Totally unsustainable 

In his letter to the Transport minister, Crossfield said despite renewal and refurbishment work contracts, there remained a work drought “until at least mid-2026” at the site. 

“A production gap of this scale is totally unsustainable for Alstom and our supply chain to manage,” he said. 

This has already led to short-contract workers losing work at Litchurch Lane. 

In response to the gap Alstom and its supply chain has “already released several hundred temporary workers from the Derby site,” Crossfield confirmed. 

“We have no other option than to resume the previously paused redundancy consultation process for our [1,300] permanent manufacturing staff,” he added. 

Union leaders have called for “less talk, more action” on hearing the news. 

“Unite will not stand by while the Government puts thousands of jobs at risk. There is a huge amount of work that Alstom could and should be bidding for, but the Government are simply not tendering for it and do not seem to care,” said Unite’s general secretary Sharon Graham. 

“Alstom and the Government now need to stop endlessly procrastinating and just get on and sign the contracts to ensure the security of thousands of highly skilled workers. If their inaction does lead to job cuts, the responsible people will be held to account personally.”

Opposition politicians have questioned the government on the issue, too. Labour’s Shadow Transport Minister Louise Haigh said: “The rail sector needs clarity on Government plans…. We simply cannot allow another vital UK industry to be hollowed out on this Government’s watch.” 

The Labour Party and Haigh’s office did not respond to Railway Technology’s questions on how it would handle the situation differently. 

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Rail manufacturing plays an important role in growing the UK economy and delivering better services for passengers. The government is committed to supporting the entire sector and we remain in close contact with ­Alstom to secure a sustainable future for rail manufacturing at Derby.”