Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Losing the Derby

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

The announcement was made today in regards to the new rolling stock that will be procured for Thameslink. As you may have been aware, the competition was between Bombardier (with their Aventra platform) and Siemens (using a new version of its Desiro product). Speaking for myself, I had expected that Bombardier would have been a dead cert to win this, given the furore that came about after it lost the IEP competition to Hitachi, because Bombardier runs the only rail vehicle manufacturer left in the UK. A story came out earlier this year which stated that Bombardier Derby was producing more vehicles than it had at any other time in the facility’s history, thanks to orders both from London Underground and various TOCs. But, because most of these orders were virtually complete, or would be by the end of 2011 (with just LU’s S Stock still in production), the facility is looking for new large scale orders to ensure its long term future, safeguarding jobs both at Derby and in the supply chain. So it was that my jaw damn near hit my desk this morning when Nigel Harris, editor of Rail Magazine, tweeted that it was Siemens that had been given preferred bidder status. They will be the ones that will construct the 1200 new vehicles, based on the Desiro City, to begin entering service from 2015, having been built at Siemens’ factory at Krefeld. Although Siemens say that this deal will lead to as many as 2000 jobs being created, most of these are associated with building the new depots and maintaining the trains once they are in service. So what does this mean for Bombardier Derby? Well, there are still a number of planned new rolling stock purchases upcoming, not least of which is the Crossrail tender, but which will also include planned new trains for the Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines, as well as replacement of Merseyrail’s fleet. But, if there is nothing forthcoming relatively soon, what then? Can Bombardier afford to continue putting together bids for tenders with no result at the end?

I fully appreciate that this will cause huge disappointment in Derby, where Bombardier would have liked to have been preferred bidder, but we are bound by EU procurement rules and, after a very careful assessment, Siemens had come up with the best deal.
Theresa Villiers, Minister of State for Transport

While I am by no means suggesting that the DfT should adopt French style protectionism to ensure Bombardier continues to prosper, it seems a little bizarre to me that the government seeks to enhance the manufacturing sector in Britain to stimulate the economy, and then awards contracts to other countries (and EU procurement rules go hang).

“Siemens preferred bidder for Thameslink”
“Siemens selected as preferred bidder for Thameslink rolling stock”

The Desiro City is a sight we'll get used to seeing on Thameslink services - but what does the award of this contract to Siemens mean for the future of Bombardier Derby?

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