Minister dismisses train-making job losses as ‘peaks and troughs’, Labour says

Labour has criticised the rail minister for dismissing avoidable job losses at Alstom’s train factory in Derby as “peaks and troughs” in the manufacturing industry.

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said there has been a lack of action from Transport Secretary Mark Harper over securing the future of the site.

Production lines at the historical Litchurch Lane site stopped work on new trains last month due to a lack of orders.

Rail minister Huw Merriman insisted the Government is doing everything it can to support the workforce.

During an urgent question on the issue, Ms Haigh argued that Britain’s rail manufacturing is in “crisis”, with Alstom and Hitachi warning their work in the UK is at risk.

Alstom has confirmed the final train from its current order book was completed on March 21, with no committed workload until a HS2 order which is expected to start in mid-2026.

The Unite trade union has previously urged Alstom and the Government to ensure the security of thousands of highly-skilled workers.

Ms Haigh told the Commons: “Alstom has been making trains in Derby for 147 years but both they and Hitachi are clear, that their uncertain future is thanks to this Government’s inaction.

“Alstom’s managing director has said that continued delay in providing certainty and clarity from the Transport Secretary (Mark Harper) is to blame, because the fact is the Secretary of State has known about this problem for months.”

Louise Haigh
Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said that worker’s livelihoods had been dismissed as ‘peaks and troughs’ (Maja Smiejkowska/PA)

She added: “We understand that the Transport Secretary has been privately promising them action on this for months, whilst crucial deadlines have been missed, avoidable job losses have already been made, and local businesses have already been forced to close.

“People’s livelihoods, the minister dismisses as peaks and troughs.”

It came in response to Mr Merriman, who said: “The Government has been doing everything it can to support the workforce over many months and is continuing to do so.

Alstom Litchurch Lane
The Alstom Litchurch Lane train-making plant in Derby (Matthew Cooper/PA)

“Whilst Alstom is currently consulting its unions and employees on possible losses, this must be a commercial decision for Alstom. The Government has 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 at risk of redundancy.”

He added: “The market for passenger trains is a competitive one, the department cannot guarantee orders for individual manufacturers. Trains are a major asset for the lifetime of 35 to 40 years, so there will naturally be peaks and troughs in the procurement cycle.

“Nevertheless, we expect continued substantial demand for new trains.”

Mr Merriman later clarified: “I did not say that individuals are to be dealt with in terms of peaks and troughs, I said that the procurement cycle leads to that.”