What was once the heart of the Scottish rail engineering industry – the Springburn district of Glasgow – has been dealt perhaps a mortal blow, with the announcement of the closure of Gemini Rail’s Springburn Depot. There was never a railway works or even a maintenance depot bearing the name Springburn, but it was an area home to the North Briotish Loco Co.’s Hyde Park and Atlas Works. Side by side with these were the Caledonian’s St Rollox and the North British Cowlairs Works – all of which built many thousands of railway locomotives, for home and export around the world.
This closure was announced in December, and confirmed in January, with the loss of upt to 200 jobs, although it will not be completed until 2020. Local and national politicians in Scotland and from the trades unions have been saddened and disappointed by the decision to close, and lose yet more engineering skills.
St Rollox, which was the only works retained in Glasgow by British Railways, was upgraded as nearby Cowlairs was closed in 1968. It became part of British Rail Engineering in the 1980s, and renamed Glasgow Works, with the rump of the works being transferred to the BR Maintenance Ltd (BRML) arm in 1987, and renamed again as Springburn Level 5 Depot.
During its time as St Rollox in BR days, the closure of Barassie Works and Inverurie meant that all work came to the one remaining workshop in Scotland – the Glasgow Works. In 1995 BRML was privatised and the St. Rollox site was sold to a Babcock/Siemens consortium along with the Wolverton site. In 2002 it was then sold to Alstom. In 2007 Alstom sold the site to RailCare Ltd. RailCare continued to operate the site until it went into administration on August 2, 2013.
Knorr Bremse were subsequently involved, and finally Gemini Rail, which began life in 2009, and remains based in Birmingham. In a statement, announcing the closure, the company made this statement:
“…. with sincere regret that Gemini Rail Services announces that severely adverse market conditions means it will be closing operations at Springburn.”
The company also suggested Springburn’s location and a major decline in work contributed to the depot’s was ongoing, unsustainable losses.
Springburn rail depot’s closure confirmed with up to 200 jobs lost labelled a ‘betrayal’ of Scottish rail industry
Looking at this, and given the UK Government’s continued insistence about the ‘huge invetment’ in the rail network, capacity, trains and services, this seems an odd reason for the closure of the depot. Scotland still has trains to operate and in need of maintenance.
So now, rail engineering, as with shipbuilding and heavy engineering has finally come to an end in Scotland. Whilst we can see that there are still discussions, consultations and negotiations going on – this is a tragedy for UK engineering, and another loss – we can only hope it doesn’t turn into another supermarket or office park.