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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

UK Rules - Post Brexit Britain

German trams on Blackpool's historic service to Fleetwood. This is the new tram stop at Norbreck North in 2016 - first day with Mrs Woodman testing 013.

French trams looking very sleek - at Nottingham Station stop - will Blackpool North tram terminus look equally professional ?

Number 93 in the Manchester Metrolink new tram order of 120+ units at the new Victoria Station tram stop. German workers benefit from this largest single tram contract in Europe in recent years (from the UK !) Thank you Bombardier.

This week sees fundamental change dominating our headlines with a new US Administration taking office led by a non-politician and the UK Government's approach to EU Membership being codified for all to see. We're leaving in two years and charting a new course in international trading relations (amongst other fundamental breaks with the Brussels apparat).

Implications for both the UK as well as Europe are far reaching. Closer to home it means that public procurement willbe no longer hamstrung by EU regulations and myriad conditions. The sight of foreign contractor low loaders delivering convoys of new rolling stock to British tram operators from European assembly plants should finally end. The opportunity for new start UK companies to launch design build rolling stock plants dawns from March 2017.

British tax payer subsidised capital contracts should henceforth require domestic content of over sixty five per cent of contract value - reflecting the long held US Federal Government policy. This has resulted in companies like Siemens and Bombardier (among others) assembling light rail vehicles for US cities being completed within the United States with consequent domestic employment benefit

Having been shut out from design and development of light rail vehicles for nearly three decades, due to careful contrived corporate preferences by a handful of foreign suppliers - the renaissance for British built light rail equipment emerging is finally here. One which all politicians and public procurement bodies need to determinedly encourage going forward..

Given the Government's focus on rejuvenating the UK's manufacturing sector and equally important strategy of encouraging investment in the former industrial north (Northern Powerhouse anyone?) - it is time we start to see incentives emerging which impel green shoots of domestic light rail suppliers (ie design build) for British contracts. Its a great pity all this didn't happen sooner before Manchester's massive light rail contract was handed to a German factory with a monolithic order for well over one hundred units. Of course Blackpool Council's own modest contract for two extra trams to supplement the existing fleet is a done deal although the purchase price (in Euro) will have inevitably have been somewhat adjusted upwards due to sterling's fall in exchange rates. This should be the very last time Blackpool Council finds itself sourcing capital contracts for its tramway from outside of the UK. This Labour Council should be seen to put its politics and contracts where its mouth is - favouring British suppliers and British workers.

A look at the Accident and Emergency access at Victoria Hospital sees shoals of ambulances queuing up to deliver patients. A common denominator is the ubiquitous Mercedes logo on fleets of these customised expensive vehicles. Again a chance for UK chassis and specialist equipment manufacturers to regain markets lost to European firms, European factories and European workers. In my younger days the ambulances were all white, had shrill chrome plated ringing bells, and were part of Blackpool Corporation Transport Department's responsibility. The ambulance fleet was based in Blundell Street Depot and painted in Rigby Road's Paint Shop alongside buses and trams. And of course the vehicles came from British companies - usually in the Midlands. All this was lost to imports after Britain signed away its sovereign rights to Brussels based pan-European governance. Well times they are a'changing. Whatever the mealy mouthed side swipes from some politicians of late (and you know who they are) - this country is clawing back its self respect and a braver new role in the world. Roll on March 2019.

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