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Rolls Royce get into gear with new plant
BUSINESS Secretary Vince Cable has broken the ground for a multi-million pound facility which aims to be the world's most advanced manufacturing plant.
In a move which will safeguard hundreds of North-East jobs, The Government has contributed £45m to global engineering firm Rolls Royce's new Washington plant, in Tyne and Wear, which will make fan and turbine discs for aircraft engines.
Mr Cable visited the region yesterday to officially kick off construction on the site in a ground breaking ceremony on the site of the factory, which will be Rolls Royce's new manufacturing plant, replacing the Sunderland plant.
Work from the existing plant, which employs 450 people, will transfer to the new 20,000sq m Washington facility when it is completed.
The total cost of the new plant has not been disclosed.
Production at the plant is due to begin late next year, with the Sunderland facility closing when the new plant is fully operational.
At full capacity, the new plant, at Washington's Radial Business Park, just off the A1(M), will manufacture more than 2,000 fan and turbine discs a year.
Fan discs, which are operational for about 20 years, hold the fan blades which rotate about 2,700 times a minute and move 1.25 tonnes of air a second. There are about 20 discs to an engine.
Turbine discs operate at the hottest part of an engine, holding blades which generate power equivalent to a Formula 1 car, and consequently must be made of the strongest materials available. They are manufactured to an accuracy within the thickness of a human hair.
The technology, which will be used in aircraft including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the Airbus A380 and the Eurofighter Typhoon, operates in high stress and extreme conditions at the centre of the engine, providing the thrust.
Yesterday, Mr Cable, who was introduced by Rolls Royce apprentice Rebecca Horner, told civic dignitaries, business leaders and Rolls Royce employees the aerospace industry was vital to the UK's economy.
"We are very proud of the aerospace industry," he said.
"We have got the second biggest in the world. We have got to keep it that way.
"Companies like Rolls Royce are absolutely essential to that."
He said the Government had contributed £45m to ensure Rolls Royce did not go elsewhere.
"There is a tremendous confidence in the North-East and the people we have got here. They are the backbone of manufacturing."
Alan Michaelis, (cor) Rolls Royce's deputy chief operating officer and president of the gas chain supply chain, said last year the firm invested £38m in training, and apprentices were a key part of the company's strategy.
"This ground breaking marks the start of construction of what we hope will be the most advanced manufacturing facility for the aerospace industry in the world.
"It marks the next phase of development of technology to expand the efficiency of Rolls Royce both in the UK and around the world."