Foreign steel used in ‘snub’ rail project
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