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The Triumph factory fire

Published: 22 April 2002

Updated: 19 November 2014

The Triumph factory " could collapse at any minute " , claim fire fighters who spent the entire weekend battling a blaze there.

Even as MCN went to press on Monday afternoon, fires were still burning inside the building in Hinckley, Leics.

Fireman won’t let people inside to assess the damage, but as our photos prove, the destruction is massive.

A third of the roof has fallen on to the production line, which had already been destroyed by 60ft flames.

The disaster means that production of Triumph’s entire range, including the 955i Daytona, Bonneville and Speed Triple, has stopped.

Triumph claims it could take up to four months before production resumes. But the devastation witnessed by MCN photographers in a helicopter hint the damage may take longer to repair. Even firefighters estimate 75 per cent of the place has been destroyed. No-one is prepared to put a financial figure on the damage, but it is likely to run into tens of millions of pounds.

At its height on Friday evening, more than 120 firemen from three counties were at the scene. One of them was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

Speaking from the scene on Monday, Station Officer Mark Speight of Leicestershire Fire and Rescue said: " From the front it doesn’t look too bad – but behind that wall there’s nothing. It’s gutted. Around 75 per cent of the building has been destroyed. We have been struggling to put it out because the walls have partially collapsed inside. The whole thing could come down any minute. "

It took more than five hours before the blaze was under control. Firemen even had to pump water from a nearby canal, using hydraulic ladders to direct their efforts at the heart of the inferno.

Speight claimed the remains would not be fully extinguished until Wednesday. There were still five or six " hot spots " on Monday evening.

The building worst affected contained the firm’s original production line, which has since been supplemented by new facilities in another factory on the same industrial estate in Hinckley.

However, the old building still houses the production line as well as facilities for making and assembling most of Triumph’s three and four- cylinder engines. This is also where completed bikes are checked for quality.

Triumph says a day’s worth of production – around 100 bikes – were inside. All have been destroyed. Spokesman Bruno Tagliaferri said: " The key damage is to the assembly area for bikes and components, which will bring production to a standstill. Fortunately, we have a comfortable amount of stock at the moment, to meet the increased demand in Spring. Hopefully we will be able to start rebuilding this week, and be back to normal in two to four months. Of course, there is a massive damage assessment job to do before we can put a value on the loss. Workers in the affected areas have been told not to come in today. They may be in later in the week to help with the rebuilding work. " All 650 employees have been assured their jobs are safe.

Triumph is remaining upbeat, but the fire is bound to have major implications on its ability to meet global demands.

One source told MCN: " The loss of the production line is the worst aspect, as the main parts store is elsewhere. There are still enough bikes in stock to fill orders for the next two-and-a-half months, but it could be as long as four before the production line is up and running again – so there could be a shortfall. "

Two bikes that will definitely be in short supply are the Bonneville T100 centennial special and the new Speed Four. Tagliaferri said: " The Speed Four is one model we won’t be able to honour sales of. And all the T100s we’d built had deposits on them. Both models will come on line eventually – we won’t be the first firm to delay the introduction of a new model. When production is up again we will concentrate on building the bikes which have the most demand. "

So far, investigators have been unable to establish a cause. Leicestershire fire service says it could be several weeks before we know what happened, and the true extent of the damage.

Forensic experts are now picking through the charred, mangled metal, but they have no reason to assume arson was the cause as MCN went to press on Monday evening.

Investigators are relying on CCTV footage from inside the factory to help pin-point a cause.

Triumph’s millionaire boss John Bloor visited the scene on Saturday. No-one could tell him how much the disaster is likely to cost.

But Steve Lilley, manager of Jack Lilley Triumph in Shepperton, Middx and one of the firm’s biggest dealers, said: " I just thank God nobody was hurt. It will cost money to put it right, but it’s only money we’ve lost, not people’s lives.

" It’s a nightmare that we won’t be getting any new bikes for months, but we are right behind Triumph on this. We’ve had e-mails from across the world since the news got out and there is a general sense that everyone wishes them well. "

The fire hit Triumph just as the firm was winding up for its 100th anniversary this year, and as it prepares to unveil several new models.

Many of the company’s top staff were in Spain as the fire ripped through the building, at the launch of the Speed Four.

New models on the way include the " Twenty Two " , a 2.2-litre three-cylinder cruiser, and a sportier version of the TT600, due to be called the TT600R and set to be launched this autumn.

Send your messages of support to Triumph through MCN. Write to: MCN, Media House, Lynch Wood, Peter-borough, PE2 6EA. Or e-mail: mcn.letters@emap.com

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