Thousands of staff at one of the UK’s biggest car plants have been sent home, after Jaguar Land Rover agreed to shut down its Solihull factory while water firm Severn Trent tries to fix pipes that burst after the recent cold weather.
JLR and Severn Trent did not offer a prediction for how long the shutdown will last at the West Midlands plant, which employs 10,000 people making models including the Jaguar XE and Jaguar F-Pace.
But even a temporary closure is likely to be costly for JLR, which has recently invested £1.5bn to upgrade the plant at Solihull with state-of-the-art technology.
The UK’s water regulator has already warned it will not “hesitate to intervene” if water firms are found to have been ill-prepared for the cold weather.
Severn Trent said: “Due to the recent thaw we’ve experienced, our teams are dealing with a huge number of burst pipes across our region which is putting pressure on our network.
“As well as bringing in extra teams and tankers, and ramping up production at our treatment works so we can continue to keep schools, hospitals, homes and vulnerable customers on supply, we’ve worked closely with Jaguar Land Rover to manage their water usage, which helps us prioritise household supplies.
“We’d like to thank them for their support as we look to get everything back to normal for our customers.”
A message to staff from JLR, which was posted on social media, said: “Due to a series of water bursts on the Severn Trent Water network, the water is now being switched off across our Solihull plant and across the Midlands.
“As a result, production will be temporarily affected. Your local area will brief your technology on the local action plan and staged evacuation plan.
“We would appreciate your support in safely and efficiently exiting site,” the memo read, advising staff to check a Facebook page for employees of the factory.
JLR said: “Jaguar Land Rover’s Solihull manufacturing plant has been forced to close due to water shortages caused by burst water mains in the region.
“Employees are being sent home and those due to attend work on the night shift this evening are being stood down.
“We will continue to keep employees informed as the situation develops.”
Rachel Fletcher, chief executive of water regulator Ofwat, said: “When the taps are back on, we will take a long, hard look at what has happened here and we won’t hesitate to intervene if we find that companies have not had the right structures and mechanisms in place to be resilient enough.
“The ongoing water supply problems affecting the country, most particularly parts of London and the south-east of England, have been deeply distressing for all those affected.
“While the recent severe freeze and thaw have undoubtedly had an impact on pipes and infrastructure, this weather was forecast in advance. A number of water companies appear to have fallen well short on their forward planning and the quality of support and communication they’ve been providing, leaving some customers high and dry.
“Everyone’s number one priority must be getting the water flowing as quickly as possible and ensuring that all customers – in particular those in vulnerable circumstances – get the support they need.”