By Clifford Webb
British Leyland is spending £1m immediately to reorganize and modernize parts of its troubled truck and tractor plant at Bath- gate, West Lothian. Only two months ago it was feared that a nine week strike by 3,000 employees, the most recent in a long line of labour disputes, would lead to permanent closure.
But a spokesman for the corporation’s truck and bus division said last night: “It would be wrong for anyone to read too much in to the decision to invest £1m. We have not suddenly decided that all our troubles are behind us at Bathgate, We have merely decided to carry on with the limited investment which was postponed by the strike early this year “.
He added, however, that there were encouraging signs for Bathgate’s future. In the past few weeks orders had been taken for 3,000 agnicultural tractor and “skids” basic kits supplied to earth moving machinery manufacturers. There had also been a welcome improvement in demand for the Redline series of trucks. which now would ensure full-time working until September at least. It was much too early to say whether the improvement in truck sales heralded the long awaited recovery of the depressed truck market.
“We normally get better sales at this time of year. The £1m is being spent mainly on the reorganization of the export packing and CKD (Completely Knocked Down) departments. The general efficiency of the plant is also being improved by re-siting some production machinery. These are expected to make them more acceptable to Continental truckers. Although this trade is at present only in its infancy, Bathgate’s volume produced trucks ranging from 3.5 tons to 26 tons are expected to play the major role in BLMC’s future exports of commercial vehicles.