WORKERS and management at one of South Tyneside’s most famous industrial sites are today celebrating a massive 300-job boost as a result of a multi-billion pound contract.
The news that Siemens has been named the preferred bidder for the Government’s massive Thameslink Rolling Stock Procurement Programme has effectively secured the long-term future of the German-owned company’s switchgear plant, in North Farm Road, Hebburn.
And there are hopes that workers at the company’s neighbouring Trench UK plant, which faces closure next year, could be thrown a jobs’ lifeline.
Once home to the famous Reyrolle factory, which employed 10,000 workers in its industrial heyday, workers at the plant will acquire new skills when they start to manufacture train components.
The announcement that the plant was about to move into a new manufacturing era was met with jubilation by the workforce yesterday.
Dave Justice, a production superviser at the Hebburn factory, which produces medium and high-voltage electrical switchgear, said: “The workforce was elated when the announcement was made during a briefing on the shop floor.
“The Thameslink contract is great news, because it will secure the future of the plant for years to come.”
Mr Justice, who has worked at the plant – still called “the Reyrolle works” – for 21 years, added: “This means the factory has a solid future.”
Concerns had been expressed by unions and politicians after the closure and demolition of parts of the site in recent years.
But the news that Siemens plans to create 2,000 new jobs as a result of the huge Thameslink contract – including 300 posts at Hebburn – means the workforce is looking forward with confidence.
Plus, 80 staff at neighbouring Trench UK, in South Drive, Hebburn, which faces closure, could be reskilled and offered work because of the train project.
A Siemens spokesman said: “There will certainly be an opportunity for the Trench UK workforce to be reskilled and offered work as a result of this contract.
“This would certainly be our hope, and retraining the Trench workforce has always been our intention.”
Des Young, director for service at the Hebburn factory, said: “This order is a great boost for the plant and has effectively secured our future for years to come.
“We have a healthy order book for the next two years, but this just adds further job security for the long term.
“We are winning new contracts all the time and have the skills to diversify.”
Mr Young said: “We have a very highly-skilled and motivated workforce, and many will be retrained.”