Lib Dem leaders pays a visit to Melksham factory


By Katie Adams

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was given a tour of an award-winning Melksham firm as part of a whistlestop visit to Wiltshire.

Vince Cable and Nick Clegg with Adie Webb, operations manager
Vince Cable and Nick Clegg with Adie Webb, operations manager

Mr Clegg is the second high profile guest to visit Knorr Bremse Rail Systems (KBRS), in Westinghouse Way, Bowerhill, after the Duchess of Cornwall was guest of honour in July, to present the firm with a prestigious Queen’s Award.

Mr Clegg was joined on Thursday by deputy leader and shadow chancellor Vince Cable and local prospective MP Duncan Hames, as they toured the building and learnt about how KBRS, which supplies and develops equipment for the rail industry worldwide, is thriving despite the current economic dowturn.

The firm is managing to buck the recession due to securing multi-million pound contracts mainly in China and the Middle East, for both its braking systems and platform doors.

It has just completed a project to supply and kit out the Dubai metro system with 1,100 platform door sets, as well as the braking systems on 87 brand-new trains, along with other products.

It is now about to embark on its biggest ever contract for 1,800 platform doors in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which has to be completed by September 2010 in time for the Muslim festival of Hajj in the November.

The Lib Dem politicians, who were promoting their green recession-busting policies, visited the production hall of the building, which was opened after a £10 million revamp in 2005.

They were then introduced to employees by managing director Paul Goodhand.

Mr Clegg said: “The Knorr-Bremse facility is immensely impressive. The people here are highly skilled and specialised and are working in a modern, clean and open environment.

“This is an example of exactly the kind of company that we need going forward in this country.

“We need to move away from the reliance we’ve had in the past on financial services and concentrate on supporting a modern manufacturing base, companies such as Knorr-Bremse who, in addition to developing and exporting products and systems around the world are supporting their local community and economy.”

Mr Clegg said the Lib Dems are keen supporters of rail as a green and environmentally sound transport.

KBRS evolved from Westinghouse Brake and Signals, which was based in Chippenham before it split into Westinghouse Signals and Westinghouse Brakes.

In 2000, Westinghouse Brakes was sold to Knorr-Bremse, one of the world’s largest brake manufacturers and became KBRS, before moving to their purpose-built Bowerhill plant in 2005 Earlier this year, KBRS was awarded the Queen’s Award for Industry in the Innovation category for their EP2002 Distributed Brake control system.

The EP2002, which is a specially designed braking system that uses software to help the brakes adapt to different conditions, was designed and manufactured at the west Wiltshire plant.

It is in service on metro trains around the world, incuding the London Underground and the new Dubai metro, which just opened.