After almost 150 years, it comes down to hours and minutes – and this morning the future of Cleveland Bridge looks as dark as it has ever done.
There has still been no confirmation of any actual bids – due by midnight – and no sign of any more emergency funding to keep production going.
If it happens now it will be a Cleveland miracle. It’s possible until the last second, of course, but so much more unlikely as the clock keeps ticking.
A meeting at 2pm today looks like the key moment for more than 200 workers at the site and hundreds more in the supply chain working for this much-loved giant which is in grave danger of being left to rust away.
The meeting has been called by Martyn Pullin, David Willis and Iain Townsend, the administration team from advisory firm FRP.
They will be expected to give one clear answer to the GMB union, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and MPs Peter Gibson and Paul Howell – are there any bids worth considering from a Cleveland Bridge saviour?
Even then, will anyone with the deep pockets and long-term vision to take it on want the whole operation or just part of it – all the workers or just some of the team that have been colleagues for decades?
It is hoped that the answer to that will be communicated to workers the same day, even if they have to wait over the weekend for full details.
The sticking point – and this time it’s one worth having – will come if a strong bid is there on the table in front of the administrators, but just needs a few more days of due diligence to get an agreement signed.
The idea that a delay would not be allowed might seem unthinkable at this stage. But these workers have seen more shock and upset in the last few days than in a lifetime, so nothing would surprise them now.
The timetable for the whole tragic story has always been a key factor. We don’t know when the alarm bells first started ringing out across the site.
But the administrators have only been in place for a week, and already the final deadline is here.
That shows that what they must have found when they moved in was, perhaps, unfixable from Day One.
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