Grinding to a halt – 150 years of history is over

AT 5pm yesterday the last railway coach left the Bombardier site, ending 150 years of rolling stock production at Horbury Junction.

Workers heading home from their final shift left the building carrying black bin liners full of personal items, some of the workforce saying goodbye to careers lasting 35 years.

Bombardier Transportation announced the site would be closing in March last year, once the final contract to build Mallard Coaches for GNER had been completed.

But a feeling of sadness was still in the air, despite workers knowing their fate was imminent.

Tony Cunniffe, 49, began working at Horbury Junction at the age of 15.

He said: “It is the end of an era.

“There are people who do not know any other work except in the railway industry.

“The feeling has been very low. I know it will be very difficult for the family men working here.

“The company has bent over backwards to help us all, it is not their fault we are closing.

“It is because of a lack of government investment in the railway industry. Bombardier could not have done any more.”

Mr Cunniffe is being relocated within the company, but others have not been so lucky.

Gary Beckett, 45, of Eastmoor, said he was not looking forward to the prospect of finding new employment.

He said: “There is a great deal of sadness about the closure, there has not been a good mood around the place. There has been a railway site here since the mid 1800s when it was called Charles Roberts.

“During the Second World War tanks were built here. There is a great deal of history going to be lost. It is hard when you look at the other jobs on offer around Wakefield, none of them pay quite as good, so it will be hard to take a pay cut.”

Officially, the workers are still on the payroll until Tuesday, although the last train was scheduled to leave at 5pm last night.

A local sandwich shop, which has been on Millfield Street for 40 years close to the factory, may suffer with the closure of Bombardier.

Ralph Fawcett, of Westways Sandwich Shop, said: “All the workers are upset. They have not said much to me; they are proud working men, some of them have been there for 20 or 30 years.

“During the week most of the staff use the canteen but our Saturday trade is going to go down when they close. I do not know how much yet.”

Michael Portman has been the landlord of the Calder Vale pub, on Millfield Road, for 33 years.

He said: “It is sad the company is closing. I do not think it will affect my business too much as there are strict alcohol laws for railway workers.

“When it was Roberts we used to have lots of the workers in but times change. I think we will have a few in today when the last shift leaves.”

The site on which Bombardier Transportation stands has been sold to property developers and it looks likely, because of planning laws, to be used for light industry again.

Charles Roberts bought the site in 1856 when he moved his firm from Wakefield to Horbury Junction It was bought in 1974 by Procor (UK) Ltd, a subsidiary of American firm Union Tank Car, which was acquired by Bombardier in 1990.