The jewel in British Rail's crown : an account of the closure at Shildon Wagon Works
In April 1982 British Rail Engineering Limited announced they were closing their Wagon Works in Shi1don, County Durham. Prior to the closure Shi1don was very much a single occupational community. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effects of that closure, both as part of a specific instance, and as part of the general decline of primary industries in the north east of England. The main body of the study examines the immediate consequences of the closure and how it affected those responsible for administering the community of Shi1don. This was largely achieved through extensive interviewing of the people charged with that responsibility both in Shildon and in the surrounding Sedgefield District Council area. Subsequent to the closure Shildon Town Council, in conjunction with Sedgefield District Council, set up a Development Agency (SASDA- Sedgefield and Shildon Development Agency) to try and attract employment to the area. An account of the political processes thus involved is the central point of the study. In examining how day-to-day events affected policy, both at local and national level, an attempt is made to compare the public rhetoric of apparent firm resolve with the more private sense of confusion felt by all concerned. As the pressure to accept British Rail's compensatory package grew so those faced with the responsibility of trying to alleviate the consequences of the closure found themselves unwilling partners in an elaborate game of bluff and counter-bluff. How this happened, and the subsequent developments, are examined in detail. British Rail's decision to close the Works at Shildon was inevitably linked to wider issues: how British Rail operates is, for instance, largely dependent on the transport policy of successive governments; when a closure is announced the trade unions affected have to organise, often at short notice, an adequate response; and, finally, when a workforce is made redundant what can be done to retrain it for other work? It seemed appropriate therefore also to briefly assess how these considerations affected Shildon.