Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

“…it really makes me wonder”

Posted in Business, Commuter, London, Rolling stock by Chairman Pip on 16 June 2011

The award of the Thameslink contract to Siemens got me to thinking about something. We’re all aware of the issue over Eurostar’s order of up to ten new trains from Siemens instead of Alstom, who produced the Class 373s that Eurostar uses at the moment, wherein the French government waded into the situation, ostensibly over safety issues in the use of distributed traction in the Channel Tunnel, but what most people saw as traditional French protectionist policy – Eurostar’s senior shareholder is SNCF, which will end up making it the first company in which the French national rail operator is the senior or only shareholder to operate high speed trains other than from the TGV family. However, Deutsche Bahn have just signed a massive deal that will see all of its ICE1 and ICE2 trains, as well as locomotive hauled InterCity trains, replaced by potentially as many as 300 new Siemens ICx multiple units. So, what would have happened if DB had decided to go for a different platform for its new trains? After all, TGV trains already operate in Germany – so what if DB had decided to choose Alstom’s AGV or Bombardier’s Zefiro? Obviously given that DB’s modern ICE trains are Siemens products gives them an advantage. It’s just interesting to think whether Siemens (a German company after all) would have thrown the kind of wobbly Alstom did if Germany’s national operator had ordered French trains.

“DB and Siemens sign ICx contract”

As far as the situation at Derby is concerned, the question is “where do we go from here?”. Unlike Alston or Siemens, Bombardier at Litchurch Lane is limited by the British network’s narrow loading gauge, which means it is unlikely to bid for work outside Great Britain, as it would be more expensive to deliver products that were out of gauge, which could not be easily moved by rail and would have to go by road. Indeed, it is for this reason that Bombardier have proposed a British only version of its TRAXX locomotive family, which many people have suggested would prove a suitable alternative to IEP; TRAXX UK would have a narrower profile to fit with the narrower loading gauge. As a consequence of this limitation, Bombardier Litchurch Lane is limited to bidding for British work, which, despite all attempts from various angles, still seems to go in peaks and troughs. Following a good decade that has seen the Turbostar and Electrostar families assume a dominant position among the new build trains in service (6 TOCs operate Electrostars while 8 use Turbostars), Bombardier is now entering a trough. The problem is that there is little on the immediate horizon that suggests a turn in fortunes – the contract for the Class 345s to be used by Crossrail is not due to be issued until 2013, while London Underground have not yet begun the process of purchasing new trains for the lines that are due to be upgraded over the next decade. Once the S Stock order is complete, that is it. And then what?

“Traxx UK aimed at two franchises”
“Bombardier train factory at risk after £3bn Thameslink deal goes overseas”

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