Wednesday, 16 May 2007

The changing face of Britain 1 - RFAs Lyme Bay and Largs Bay approaching completion at Swan Hunter, Wallsend, in 2005

Sustained economic growth and industrial change are altering the face of Britain at an astonishing pace - and I see the evidence everywhere as I travel around the country for the Verdict test.

First, something we will probably never see again - ship-building on the Tyne. This photo was taken on a Verdict trip to Newcastle (I think in late 2005 for the test of the Nissan Micra SR), during which I made a special point of heading out to Wallsend to see the mighty new Navy landing ships RFA Largs Bay and RFA Lyme Bay (nicknamed lager and lime for obvious reasons), then approaching completion at Swan Hunter. These are two of a class of four - the other two were built by BAE Systems.

Largs Bay and Lyme Bay were the last ships to be built at Swans, the product of a valiant effort by the Dutch entrepreneur Jaap Kroese to revive ship-building on the Tyne after Swan Hunter went down once before in the Nineties. This time it looks as though the yard, and the proud Swans tradition, at least in ships, have been lost for ever. Blame it on cost over-runs on these two ships and the failure to win work on the Royal Navy's new aircraft carriers.

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