The Prime Minister paid a visit to a construction site on the outskirts of Goole in East Yorkshire on Tuesday as the Government launched a £111m traineeship scheme designed to better equip more young people for the world of work.
As part of the trip, he spoke to a group of young apprentices at the facility, which is expected to create 700 permanent jobs and employ 750 people during construction, as well as supporting a further 1,700 supply chain roles.
Siemens intends to create a new centre of excellence for manufacturing, engineering, research and development which the company says “will be one of the most technologically advanced rail manufacturing sites of its kind anywhere in the world”.
Mr Johnson said: “Goole is going to be one of the great European centres of train-making. This factory alone will employ about 700 people.”
He said the factory symbolised the importance of the Government’s ‘levelling up agenda’ - especially after a new Social Market Foundation report warned nearby Hull would be among the places that would be hardest-hit in the long-term by the impact of coronavirus on the economy.
“If you think about this country in the last 50 years or maybe more there has been a kind of obsession in the Treasury that basically London and the South-East were the big cash cows and that was the stuff that delivered the tax revenue,” Mr Johnson said.
“But what that meant was there were huge parts of the country where the potential was never really unleashed. There hasn’t been enough investment in infrastructure, there hasn’t been investment in skills and in people’s potential. This Government is absolutely determined to change that.
“Who would have thought that Goole would be one of the great European centres of train development and research? They are not just going to be making them here - this is going to be high-skilled, high-tech stuff.
“This is not about knocking London the metropolis I used to be mayor of - on the contrary, it is about trying to recognise there is genius and talent all over this country and we need to be unleashing it.”
The first phase of the development, due to open in 2023, will provide facilities for production of Siemens Mobility’s next generation Inspiro trains, which have the capability to be driverless, for the London Underground’s Piccadilly Line.
Mr Johnson said driverless trains should be a condition of any future bailout of Transport for London, which received £1.6bn from the Government in May after a collapse in revenue due to the coronavirus lockdown.
With that funding due to run out in September, Mr Johnson said any future settlement may be conditional on their use to avoid “being held ransom by the unions”.
“You can run these trains without the need for somebody to be sitting in the driver’s cab the whole time,” he told reporters.
“So what I will be saying to the London transport authority is let’s take advantage of this technological leap forward, let’s not be the prisoners of the unions any more, let’s go to driverless trains, and let’s make that a condition of the funding settlement for Transport for London this autumn.
“That’s the way forward for this country and we want to make use of the fantastic technology we’ve got and provide a better service for people in the capital and take the whole economy forward.”
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