Posted 14th October 2010 | 8 Comments

Dismay in Derby as rtc goes under the hammer

The Advanced Passenger Train of the early 1980s was developed at the rtc in Derby

The Advanced Passenger Train of the early 1980s was developed at the rtc in Derby

DERBY’s RTC Business Park – formerly British Rail’s research centre and home to some of the most significant late-20th Century world-leading railway technical innovations – has been put up for sale for £16 million by the government.

The news comes just ahead of Derby and Derbyshire Rail Forum’s conference on 4 November, which aims to highlight the city’s role as a world centre of railway excellence.

Now the Forum has said it is concerned that the sale of the RTC Business Park “contains no protection for the rail-connected facilities at this important site.”

The site, which until privatisation was home to BR’s Railway Technical Centre, opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1966, is situated between the A6 London Road and the Derby-Long Eaton rail route.

In its statement Derby Rail Forum, which is headed by Colin Walton, the UK Chairman of Bombardier Transportation, says: “Were these facilities to be lost it would have an enormous impact on the skills base offered by the world’s leading rail cluster, particularly in the field of specialist rolling stock engineering.

“With Derby hoping to host the recently-announced National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering, this would clearly be a retrograde step.”

The sale of the site, extending over 11 hectares, is being handled by the British Railways Board (Residuary) Ltd, which is owned by the Department for Transport.  Derby Rail Forum says it hopes BRBR Ltd “will take on board local concerns and safeguard the RTC’s rail facilities for current and future users of this important site”.

Rail industry companies currently based on the RTC Business Park include Network Rail, RVEL, Serco Assurance, Rampart Carriage & Wagon, DEU, Garrandale Engineering and Huber & Suhner.

As British Rail’s research centre, the RTC was the home of many important developments — including the Advanced Passenger Train, whose technology is now incorporated in Virgin’s Pendolino trains; computerised signalling and train control, Solid State Interlocking (SSI), which has just celebrated its world-leading 25th anniversary; and the B5000 lightweight track-friendly bogie, which is now supplied with many new passenger vehicles built by Bombardier at its nearby Litchurch Lane factory.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Joe, Derby

    This news doesn't mean the companies will go, it just means the buildings will have a new landlord... hopefully.

    After the recent Bombadier episode (approx. 1400 jobs to go) these companies need to stay if it is worth their while else the government will have more benefits to hand out and Derby city centre will have even more people hanging about on the streets.

    The industrial facilities and skill base need retaining else we will only be buying trains from other countries. What about maintenance, where will that be carried out?

    It is easy for government and EU beaurocrats to say "oh yes the other EU countries play by the same rules", and "the EU is good for the UK economy", and "sorry we made a mistake on this one we will look at our strategy". These comments do not help the UK rail industry and to not help the workers whose livelihoods are put under pressure.

    Firstly, France and Gemany do not play by the rules. Secondly the EU can't be good for the evconomy because it costs so much money to be a member state. Thirdly, admitting a bad decision has been made is too late. Government workers and EU bureaucrats are safe in their jobs. They will never have their work sold to foreign countries and even in the unlikely event that they will lose their jobs they are nothing more than administration staff so can find a job anywhere.

    Rail maintenenace, manufacture, management, design, etc are specialist fields of engineering and should not be treated lightly. I'm sure if Bombardier and the RTC were part of the motor industry then the government's (and Michelle's) attitudes would be much different.

  • c. tonkin, derby, uk

    Another short sighted decision with a long term impact. I wonder if the U.K. will have anything left at all in a few years.

  • Mike Holmes, Nantwich, Cheshire

    Surely, if Network Rail, RVEL, Serco Assurance, Rampart Carriage & Wagon, DEU, Garrandale Engineering and Huber & Suhner are all on site at present and are going to remain on site, the sale is in effect nothing more than a transfer to a new landlord? Surely nothing to stop any of them continuing whatever rail research they are already doing or using whatever facilities for rail research are still in place. Its only if no-one wants the facilities that they will decline i.e. if there is no market for them.

  • Lorentz, London

    If the site is 'functioning' it will continue to attract rail related businesses - there is no need for it to be in public ownership for this to happen.

  • Mike Christelow, Crewe, Cheshire

    The instinctive reaction is "This is bad news" and if the sale sees the decline or loss of the site and its facilities that will be very bad news for Derby and the rail industry indeed.

    The up side is that the sale might be attractive to an innovative venture-capital outfit keen to expand in the area of railway technoclogy innovation - a key direction for the industry in the current "Do more for less" climate.

    It's to be hoped the outcome isn't simply an asset-stripping exercise that deprives Derby of one of its key employment sources and industry/business attractions, and deprives the UK of a world-renowned centre of excellence and expertise.

  • michelle, West Mids, UK

    Good riddance to them, I say! Unfortunately this organization brought redundant aerospace workers with air travel ethics to turn trains into cramped cigar-tube like structures with scant regard to passenger comfort ...

  • Connor K, Derby, UK

    Very sad to hear this and what a shame for this to put up for sale. I do agree with what Colin Walton said.

  • Rob, Leeds, UK

    Very sad.

    Once, the UK led the way in rail research.