Blog: Rotherham steels itself to be new New York
Simon Warburton | 18 February 2013
Twenty-three years ago was the last time I was in the northern England city of Sheffield to cover the World Student Games as a local reporter - and I'm here again near Rotherham as Tata Steel and Productiv launched their supply chain initiative today (18 February) at the Brinsworth plant.
Sheffield is the UK's self-styled 'City of Steel' but for those of a certain vintage, it also gloried for a while under the 'Republic of South Yorkshire' moniker as it enjoyed a reputation for somewhat leftish politics and radical thinking that saw heavyweight British politician, David Blunkett, achieve national prominence.
British Steel's no more but Tata's stewardship of its vast sites in Sheffield and Rotherham, has seen it collaborate with consultants Productiv, several suppliers, including Torotrak and Flybrid, as well as the UK government in the form of Secretary of State, Vince Cable and his taxpayers' chequebook, to launch today's The Proving Factory supply chain initiative at the Brinsworth site.
Various media and representatives from the six suppliers involved - including Torotrak CEO Jeremy Deering - assembled in one of Brinsworth's cavernous sheds that Tata is providing for the project - and waited for the Secretary of State to arrive.
Invariably with almost any political visit, the timetable slips pretty rapidly. Cable was coming from Cumbria on this Monday morning and there was a fair amount of feet stamping as Yorkshire's icy winds swept straight through the open shed.
Cable and his squadrons of PRs eventually arrived and he duly inspected the supplier troops lined up, although the feedback I had was he genuinely knows his stuff. Auto and manufacturing seem to be real interest areas for him and he certainly didn't appear to be going through the motions.
I put myself beside the BBC camera crew and fired a couple of questions off and he took the time to answer, even when I asked if the notoriously cash-strapped UK Chancellor of the Exchequer was also backing his car initiatives.
He said he was and I suppose he wouldn't exactly have said no, but I had the strong impression this administration backs the sector; it is a success story after all compared to our European friends, whose auto industry, as Cable told me, "is in trouble."
I'm now waiting for my train back to the Midlands at Sheffield station as the sun dips on a freezing Yorkshire afternoon and the entrance is dominated by a vast - steel of course - linear waterfall that has echoes of a vast pipe.
As station sculptures go, this one's pretty good and fits perfectly with the city's past and present, sitting as it does under Sheffield's hugely controversial, and endless, Park Hill housing estate.
Park Hill completely dominates the Sheffield skyline, but locals tell me they have some sort of preservation order meaning their thousands of apartments can't be knocked down.
They're a pretty brutalist presence on the hill above the city, but have found a sort of reverse Stalinist chic, as some, only some mind, have been gentrified to appeal to, well maybe a few of those Republic of South Yorkshire elite.
Talking of building structures, I came back from Tata Steel to the station past Rotherham United's brand new football ground, intriguingly named 'The New York Stadium.'
On asking why the highly unusual name for a north of England football team, it appears there used to be a foundry near the site that produced the fire hydrants for New York City, hence the title of possibly one of the most unusually named grounds in the country.
And they beat local rivals, Chesterfield, 1-0 yesterday to boot, taking the club to within one point of the automatic promotion places.
The short films available on YouTube showing Toyota's Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell being made are well worth a look (as noted by previous blog). The Motomachi plant in Toyota City is churning out three Mi...
Here's a chance to see details of Toyota's Mirai fuel cell car being manufactured at its Motomachi plant in Japan....
Interesting development in the news at Audi. There's a robot on the assembly line that works with the humans....
If you live in North America and want to buy an Opel, you head for your friendly Buick corner store and drive home in a shiny new Regal built in Canada, though launch models a few years back actually ...
- Volvo UK specs up seven seat XC90 redesign
- ANALYSIS: Mercedes smart brand's last chance?
- Management briefing: 48V mild hybrids (2)
- COMMENT: Diesel not out in London and Paris
- THE WEEK THAT WAS: Hobnobbing with the A-listers
- Geneva show list updated
- Honda chief quits
- UK: Aston Martin to reveal future models strategy
- Ricardo unveils new prototype electric motor
- Land Rover updates Evoque
- Global light vehicle engine technologies market- forecasts to 2029
- Global vehicle lightweighting - technology, trends and the future
- LMC Automotive's European Passenger Car Production Estimates - Latest Monthly Update
- Global electrified light vehicles market- forecasts to 2018
- PLDB - vehicle cycle plan database (annual subscription)