South East Wales

Mabey Bridge: Worry over loss of Chepstow engineering skills

Mabey Bridge
Image caption The factory in central Chepstow has been up for sale for months

There is a warning that valuable skills could be lost if a bridge building firm shuts in Monmouthshire.

Mabey Bridge is consulting with 150 workers on the planned closure of its 160-year-old factory in Chepstow.

Dr Jonathan Deacon of South Wales Business School said: "There's a potential we'll lose good quality engineering jobs".

The firm's turbine tower plant in nearby Mathern is also up for sale, which employs 180 people.

A company spokesman said it anticipated a buyer would be found to support that area of the business.

Mabey Bridge said it was looking at "every possible option to remain competitive in difficult times".

'Pinch-point'

It also has a bridge business in Lydney in Gloucestershire.

"We have not made these decisions lightly and we understand that this is a very difficult time for our people." the spokesman added.

The company's history dates back to working with the great railway engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, while today it makes motorway bridges and gantries for traffic signals.

Dr Deacon, a reader in marketing and entrepreneurship at the University of South Wales said there was a danger good jobs could be lost.

"Companies like Mabey Bridge are very good at making things and have been making good things for 150 years or more.

"For our part of the world, there's a potential we'll lose good quality engineering jobs."

"In the restructuring, if those jobs go to Lydney, they move out of Wales and this could have knock-on effect in trying to encourage young people into engineering and fabrication."

Dr Deacon lives in the area too and his eldest son is an apprentice at Mabey Bridge and is among those facing uncertainty.

'Stronger'

"Businesses don't go wrong overnight, there's a period of slowing up," Dr Deacon told BBC Radio Wales.

"We've seen a pinch-point here where the senior management has changed and those coming in have had a look, a good audit and said this isn't what we thought it was."

The company said it would be providing workers with as much information and support as possible over the coming weeks.

"We are confident that these proposed changes will help build a stronger, more sustainable future for Mabey Bridge's modular bridge business in Lydney," said the spokesman.

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