Melting down roller coaster

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THE last few years have been a roller coaster ride for Tata Steels’ South Yorkshire plants – and for the rest of the steel industry.

With steel prices rising, steel makers are on the up again, which is all well and good, but the trick is to find a way to sidestep the next plunge.

Tata’s special steels operations in Stocksbridge and Rotherham have a better chance of doing that than ever before, thanks to the way they responded to the recession.

Costs were cut and jobs were lost but, at the same time, the business has moved up-market to a place where quality and reliability is paramount, where competitors with the capability to make steels for safety-critical, low maintenance applications are fewer and farther between and where you don’t have to ‘stack it high and sell it cheap’.

The success of the new strategy is reflected in Tata’s decision to invest in increasing the capacity of its local plants to make ultra-clean, hi-tech steels for the demanding aerospace, energy and bearings markets, where business has remained brisk and looks like becoming even better.

It has also led to the creation of new jobs in an industry where continual cutbacks once seemed inevitable.

Let’s hope the roller coaster has finally been melted down at Tata’s Rotherham plant and will emerge from Stocksbridge as a hi-tech steel with the potential for long term profits.

Blitz spirit haunts the city centre

PARTS of Sheffield city centre have not looked so rundown since the Blitz. Empty stores are everywhere and reasons to visit the centre are increasingly scarce.

The reason, of course, is that redevelopment planned under the ambitious Sevenstone umbrella has stalled in the recession as main partner Hammerson concentrates its operations elsewhere.

The city council’s answer has been to tart up the windows of empty shops with works of art and there is now a proposal to continue this at a cost of £53,700. Something is better than nothing and decorated windows certainly look better than empty ones.

But surely Hammerson ought to be helping pay for this exercise in window dressing. After all it was their decision to delay the start which left us with a city centre looking like a bomb site.

Shameful parking

ANYONE tempted to fraudulently use a disabled parking badge should carefully read today’s story about six cheats who landed in court for doing just that. They were all fined heavily and now live with the shame of the public knowing details of their dishonesty. It is particularly shameful as these badges are given to people with genuine need, not for those who simply want to dodge parking regulations which the rest of us must abide by.