An icy January wind races across the dockyard at Barrow-in-Furness, chased by pellets of rain. Thirty years ago Brian would have struggled to keep his balance as he clambered over half-built submarines lying in the open berths of the remote Cumbrian shipyard.
Today the labourers building the Royal Navy’s newest class of nuclear-powered Astute submarines are working in the relative comfort of the Devonshire Dock Hall, a vast hangar the size of several football pitches. “It is much better here,” says the former welder, who has worked at Barrow for 38 years.
Keeping the workers dry enough to focus on the job is not the only change at Barrow, which built its first submarine in 1886 for the Ottoman Navy. Large parts of the shipyard are being bulldozed as part of a £300m investment in new facilities to prepare for one of the UK’s most costly — and controversial — defence projects.
The expected bill for renewing Britain’s nuclear deterrent — the successor to the four Vanguard submarines currently carrying Trident II D-5 nuclear-tipped missiles — was revised last autumn from £25bn to £31bn, with a further £10bn for unforeseen risks.
The rise has given anti-Trident campaigners, including Labour’s new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, ammunition to question renewal ahead of this year’s parliamentary vote to launch construction.
It has put the onus on the industrial partners — BAE Systems, owner of the Barrow shipyard; Rolls-Royce, maker of the nuclear reactors that power the subs, and Babcock International, which will maintain the boats — to explain how they intend to contain costs once a commitment to renewal is made. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the ful story, on the FT website.