An icy January wind races across the dockyard at Barrow-in-Furness, chased by pellets of rain. Thirty years ago Brian would have struggled to keep his balance as he clambered over half-built submarines lying in the open berths of the remote Cumbrian shipyard. Today the labourers building the Royal Navy’s newest class of nuclear-powered Astute submarines are working in the relative comfort of the Devonshire Dock Hall, a vast hangar the size of several football pitches. “It is much better here,” says the former welder, who has worked at Barrow for 38 years. The expected bill for renewing Britain’s nuclear deterrent — the successor to the four Vanguard submarines currently carrying Trident II D-5 nuclear-tipped missiles — was revised last autumn from £25bn to £31bn, with a further £10bn for unforeseen risks. The rise has given anti-Trident campaigners, including Labour’s new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, ammunition to question renewal ahead of this year’s parliamentary vote to launch construction. It has put the onus on the industrial partners — BAE Systems, owner of the Barrow shipyard; Rolls-Royce, maker of the nuclear reactors that power the subs, and Babcock International, which will maintain the boats — to explain how they intend to contain costs once a commitment to renewal is made.
FT 18th Jan 2016 read more »