For­eign steel used in ‘snub’ rail pro­ject

Western Mail - - NEWS - Ben Glaze news­desk@waleson­

FOR­EIGN steel is be­ing used for a key rail elec­tri­fi­ca­tion pro­ject in Cardiff af­ter a steel­works less than two miles away was snubbed.

Net­work Rail en­gi­neers are us­ing re­bar from Por­tu­gal as they carry out work on a road bridge over the Lon­don to Cardiff main­line.

It has only came to light af­ter cam­paign­ing MPs who have pressed for UK steel to be cho­sen for gov­ern­ment and other pub­lic con­tracts were tipped off.

They re­vealed that metal stamped with the im­print of Por­tuguese firm Me­gasa had been found at the Splott Road Bridge site. Yet Cardiff ’s Celsa steel­works – a few min­utes away – is the coun­try’s largest man­u­fac­turer of re­bar, pro­duc­ing around 1.2m tonnes of fin­ished steel every year.

Net­work Rail has pre­vi­ously said that phase one of the pro­ject at Splott Road Bridge be­gan in Fe­bru­ary, while the par­tial de­mo­li­tion was car­ried out over Au­gust Bank Hol­i­day week­end, when en­gi­neers de­mol­ished and re­con­structed one side of the bridge to pre­pare for the over­head line equip­ment needed for new bi-mode trains, which will run on elec­tric­ity to Cardiff by 2019. The sec­ond half of the struc­ture is ex­pected to be de­mol­ished and re­struc­tured next year.

Fu­ri­ous Labour MPs wrote to Net­work Rail last night, say­ing us­ing im­ported steel is an “in­sult to Bri­tish steel­work­ers”.

Com­mu­nity steel­work­ers’ union gen­eral sec­re­tary Roy Rick­huss said: “This scan­dal sums up the prob­lem with in­dus­trial strat­egy in this coun­try.

“Less than two miles down the road from the con­struc­tion site hard­pressed Bri­tish steel­work­ers are mak­ing ex­actly the right prod­uct.

“Yet in­stead of sup­port­ing our own steel in­dus­try, Net­work Rail – a pub­licly owned com­pany – has de­cided to send work abroad.”

Labour back­benchers Stephen Kin­nock and Stephen Doughty jointly penned a let­ter to Net­work Rail chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Carne, say­ing: “It is clear that a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of the steel be­ing used on site orig­i­nates from Por­tu­gal.

“This is clear from the rib pat­terns on the re­bar, and the pho­to­graphic ev­i­dence of the Me­gasa im­print on re­bar at the Splott Road Bridge site.”

They added: “Pub­lic bod­ies such as Net­work Rail are un­der legal obli­ga­tions to take into con­sid­er­a­tion the so­cial and eco­nomic im­pli­ca­tions of the steel that they pro­cure.

“Fail­ing to use Bri­tish steel in such in­stances is a false econ­omy, and may be in breach of cen­tral gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ment guide­lines.”

Mr Kin­nock, whose con­stituency of Aber­avon in­cludes Bri­tain’s big­gest steel­works, Port Tal­bot, said: “This re­ally is a kick in the teeth for steel­work­ers right across Bri­tain. Just a short walk from a steel­works that could pro­duce all of the steel re­quired, we see for­eign steel piled high.”

Cardiff South and Pe­narth MP Stephen Doughty added: “I am ap­palled that Net­work Rail are us­ing non-UK steel in their in­fra­struc­ture projects.

“It’s a real slap in the face for our lo­cal Welsh steel­worker.”

A Net­work Rail spokes­woman said: “Ninety-six per cent of the steel we buy for Bri­tain’s rail­way is Bri­tish and is cen­tral to our Rail­way Up­grade Plan.

“From time to time we may need to source some spe­cial­ist pieces of steel which we have to buy, as a pub­lic com­pany, in open com­pe­ti­tion.”

> Steel from Por­tuguese firm Me­gasa is be­ing used for the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion pro­ject

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