A RAILWAY parts business in York is to close with the loss of 72 jobs to the city.

Unipart, situated in Leeman Road on the site of the proposed York Central re-development, says it has been hit by falling demand for parts for older trains.

It said it originally planned to re-locate to another site in York, in the face of plans by City of York Council to compulsorily purchase its land for York Central, but revised this decision, partly because of "delays to the planning approval process".

The firm is based on land between the back of York Station and the National Railway Museum, where a new public square and road are understood to be planned as part of the massive York Central project.

A Unipart spokesman said the changing requirements of the UK rail industry, with older trains going out of service in favour of new fleet being introduced, meant there was diminishing demand for parts for older trains, one of Unipart Rail’s business activities.

“In addition, expenditure by Network Rail and its contractors is significantly down in 2019, and we expect this to continue into 2020,” he said.

“In order to stay competitive in this changing market, we have taken the incredibly difficult decision to discontinue operations at our York site.

“Sadly, this means a number of our employees have entered a consultation period which will result in redundancies.

“We are experiencing growth in other areas of our business and we will work to find employees alternative roles where possible.”

He said 72 people in York were affected but some could be offered alternative work at other Unipart sites at Crewe, Doncaster, Southport, Leicester or internationally.

He said that when the York site faced compulsory purchase by the local authority, the firm initially planned to move to another new site, "and indeed have invested significantly in creating a new site already".

The spokesman added: “But delays to the planning approval process, coupled with a significant deterioration in the market for products manufactured and repaired by our York site, has required us to revisit the original decision.”

The York Central scheme involves a huge re-development of brownfield land behind the railway station, much of it disused and derelict, with the aim of creating thousands of new homes and jobs.

Cllr Andrew Waller, executive member for economy and strategic planning at the council, said: “This is a very disappointing decision as we have worked with Unipart since 2015 to keep the business in the city.

“We hope all employees can be redeployed and will give help to any needing support to find new employment.

“York is an excellent location with a strong rail sector and we continue to work with all businesses involved in York Central with generous relocation packages and support.”

A council spokeswoman added that the authority granted full planning permission to Unipart on May 31 and had been working through a number of additional variations requested by the firm.