A Huntingdon business has kicked off 2014 with the start of a year-long £1.5million investment programme and has announced a £10m contract with a train firm.

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TRB Lightweight Structures unveiled its new aluminium pre-treatment facility – the only one of its type in the UK – last Wednesday as it starts its first stage of investment at the Clifton Road business.

The £170,000 new equipment, which replaces the existing 30 to 40-year-old facility, cleans and prepares metal sheets to be bonded to a honeycomb core to create its strong and lightweight panels.

It has been strategically placed to increase efficiency in the factory, while also being more energy efficient.

It forms the first part of a 2014 investment programme that will see TRB, which currently employs more than 60 people, double in size in the next two years.

Andrew Dugmore, TRB president, told staff members at the ceremony: “This really does mark quite an investment in TRB.

“Last year, we invested in our IT infrastructure and now this is an important part at the heart of the company and at the heart of our long term-investment.

“We are investing £1.5m in the ­business this year. We are investing in efficiencies to free more time up because we are going to need it for the work coming through here in the next five to 10 years.

“We will be recruiting heavily and will probably double our staff in the next 12 to 24 months.

“I am on the board of directors for Composites UK and we are working on a huge project – HS2. TRB is going to have a big part in that. It is a long term project and for us, and the area, is fantastic news.”

Sue Bedlow, economic development manager at Huntingdonshire District Council, officially opened the new equipment with Ian Groom, ­maintenance manager, and Gary Durack, main pre-treatment operator.

She said: “The investment and growth at TRB is what we at HDC want to see.

“The district has been doing really well over the recession but there’s plenty of scope to be better. We want to make this area one of the best places to live, work and invest by 2023.

“What they are doing is at the heart of that.

“Manufacturing is really ­important to Huntingdonshire. It is why we are launching a composites network to help us get our district to be seen as the forefront in the industry.”

TRB managing director Julie Quirke said: “Everyone will have come into contact with at least one thing we produce.

“There are thousands of ticket barrier gates in the London Underground and most would have been built here. We have made parts for the RNLI – and the space station.

“We are passionate about creating lightweight structures because it means that vehicles are lighter and require less fuel, which means we are helping to save the world from our little corner of Huntingdon.”

The company is producing doors for the Victoria Line tube trains, parts for Caterham and has designed a disabled toilet for trains.

“It has also worked on parts for the London Eye, wheelchair ramps for the capital’s black taxis as well as a solar-powered vehicle to cross Antarctica.

Mr Dugmore also announced TRB has secured a multi-million pound contract with Hitachi Rail Europe, which he hopes will help turn the firm from a £6.1m turnover company 
to a £20m turnover business by 2020.

“Myself and the CEO Jonathan McQueen sold sister company Amber Composites last year and we are committed to using those funds to invest in TRB,” Mr Dugmore said. “This is not a short-term venture for us, we are investing in the long-term.”

Later this week, the second part of stage one will start as a mezzanine floor begins to be built to create office space.

Next year, TRB hopes to build a production facility at the rear of its site to cope with the increased demand in its services. It means an investment of £3-5m over the next four years.

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