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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Supporting UK steel manufacture

Above : Utility work along Dickson Road in 2015 revealed sections of the former North Station service track which remains under the surface along the entire length of the street route in Blackpool from the Gynn roundabout. No chinese steel here.

Now that the headline news on sudden closures of strategic industrial infrastructure - ie steel manufacture with the accompanying enormous hardship inflicted on 'hardworking families' is crowding out the photo-ops of a State Visit by the Chinese Premier to London, it is worth recalling that all of the Blackpool tramway upgrade involved imported steel track from Germany. No doubt had the upgrade been taking place in 2016 we would be seeing Chinese manufactured tram track arriving on the Promenade.

Panicked statements by the Government announcing preferred procurement that supports UK manufactured products - including defence spending contracts, HS2 and so forth is just a little late in the day for steelworkers being laid off in their thousands up and down the country (including Scotland's heartland). And all in the run up to Christmas.

Whilst Blackpool's modest tramway extension to North Station is a mere token track procurement contract in the great scheme of things it would be nice to learn

that this Labour controlled Authority made sure that any new rail and pointwork would be manufactured in this country - as opposed to public money being expended in support of German steelmakers. Or is this barred by our being part of the EU? From Parliamentary exchanges in the House today it seems HMG's hands are carefully bound by European rules and political 'tricks of the trade'.

With total removal of the old tramtrack during the upgrade work (overseen by Dutch and German firms) - the familiar British names such as Hadfields were erased from the promenade. Naturally German (or was it Austrian?) built trams are essential to run on German rail - given the UK's one time vaunted competence in tram and light rail manufacture (or design) had been gifted away to European industry.

UK steel forged in Sheffield. Blundell Street Depot tracks in the process of being removed during the 'regeneration' of this part of Blackpool in 2013. These tracks were relaid in the 1960s and are at the south end of the former depot building.

All of this bodes ill for pro-Europeans in the promised UK referendum on ' should this country stay IN the EU or leave? ' Doubtless there will be thousands more voting in the Out column in communities impacted by this litany of woes now

emerging from Britain's steel making centres. No amount of flummery and splendidly costumed soldiery parading through London to entertain the Chinese

guests - will make up for the strategic damage to the UK's industrial infrastructure, 'hardworking families' and seriously damaged communities.

If there is the slightest chance of any further tram extensions and vehicle pro- curement going ahead on the Fylde coast it is the duty of politicians to make sure the work and equipment is sourced locally. Even Rigby Road Works was building trams with local partners right up to the 1990s: whilst Blackpool's most popular trams were of course built in Preston. Lessons must be learned - perhaps........

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