Soham fire engine is borrowed by Cambridge city fire crew after their £600,000 engine breaks down

One of Cambridgeshire's £600,000 Multistar engines

One of Cambridgeshire's £600,000 Multistar engines - Credit: Cambs Fire Service

Union officials have criticised the fire service for having unreliable equipment after a state of the art engine was sent away for repair forcing them to “borrow” an engine from the two-strong fleet at Soham.

A £600,00 Multistar engine in Cambridge city centre, which has hoses and a cherry-picker style high-reach ladder, has a fault with the gearbox and has been sent away for repair.

In the meantime they have taken a Soham engine to cover the city.

A Cambridgeshire Fire Service spokesman said: “The Cambridge Multistar was taken off the run on Monday due to a fault with the gearbox. Mechanical faults of this kind can, and do happen to any of our fire engines, just like any other vehicles.

“We have another aerial appliance in the county should it be required and we can call on aerial appliances from neighbouring fire services too if necessary.”

The Multistars were brought in to replace turntable high-reach ladder fire engines which were decommissioned because they were at “the end of their useful life after years of operational service.”

The fire spokesman said: “With further budget cuts on the horizon, we cannot justify spending £1.2million to replace these vehicles when the two modern Multistars provide the service with the aerial capability it needs.”

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Union chiefs said firefighters raised concerns about the unreliability of the Multistar just 12 days ago.

The nearest high-reach vehicle is 30 minutes away in Peterborough or Bury St Edmunds - however the Bury vehicle has been off the road since May 2014.

Cameron Matthews, secretary of the FBU in Cambridge, said: “This proves why fire chiefs should have listened to the concerns of professionals on the frontline who are the experts in using the equipment and the ones who must rely on it during 999 emergencies.

“If the chief fire officer had postponed the decision to remove the reliable turntable ladder engine then Cambridge would now have a tried and tested backup.

“Instead, our community and firefighters are now at unnecessary risk. Fortunately, this time the breakdown did not occur while firefighters were actually attempting a rescue. A similar failure in the past on the Peterborough Multistar, occurred whilst tackling a fire. We can only hope that a life or a historic building is not lost because of the lack of high-reach aerial capacity as a result of this breakdown and the premature decision to de-commission the reliable Turntable Ladders.”