Over 700 jobs on Merseyside have been safeguarded after the go-ahead was given for a £115 million investment at Halewood to build a new gearbox for Ford”s Focus and Mondeo models.

According to the Independent, the new six-speed manual transmission system, to be produced by the joint venture company Getrag Ford, is being backed by £5 million from the Department of Trade and Industry.

Halewood reportedly won the new gearbox in competition with rival Getrag Ford sites in Cologne and Bordeaux. Production will begin in 2006 and rise to 400,000 a year, virtually doubling the capacity of the plant, the paper added.