MP fears Southampton Ford Transit factory will close

Ford Transit van Image copyright Other
Image caption The Southampton factory employs 500 people

Southampton's troubled Ford Transit van factory faces closure, according to local Conservative MP Caroline Nokes.

The MP for Romsey and Southampton North said: "I've always had concerns for the future of the factory and it now looks like there will be an announcement tomorrow indicating that it's going to close.

"Obviously this is terrible news for Swaythling and very bad news for Southampton.

"Most of the UK motor manufacturing sector is doing well but unfortunately there's a history of falling sales of Transit vans, I think we've got to do all we can to get these 500 people other jobs within the city."

The Transit used to be everywhere. White van man's transport of choice. Southampton took a real pride in the fact that for 45 years they were produced here, six million sold in Britain and transported through the docks to destinations around the world.

But a fall in sales of a fifth saw the number of shifts reduced. MPs sought assurances that that factory would keep going in the face of cheaper production lines in other parts of Europe.

While other parts of the British motor industry are booming it looks like the city that was known for producing RJ Mitchell's Spitfire aircraft will now lose its last iconic production line.

Mrs Nokes has applied for an emergency debate in the House of Commons: "I grew up knowing Southampton was the Home of the Transit.

"They built the first Transit the year I was born. I think we all need to work together to ensure the best possible future for the people and the site.

"Southampton is a driver of the regional economy and losing 500 jobs will be very difficult indeed."

Labour leader of Southampton City Council Richard Williams says the suggestion comes completely out of the blue.

He is backing plans for extra support, saying "We want to help those workers affected as much as possible. As a council we will work with Job Centre Plus and other local agencies to form a task force to help employees find alternative work.

"A similar approach was taken earlier this year when British Gas made 500 call centre workers redundant, and the vast majority have since been found new roles."