Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

“…while we still have time”

Posted in Business, Europe, Great Britain, Lord Adonis, Philip Hammond, Politics, Rolling stock by Chairman Pip on 6 July 2011

When considering what happens next in the Bombardier situation, I’ve had some ideas. Of course, you have many many people (the Labour Party, the RMT to name but a few) calling for the agreement already signed to be torn up and instead given to Bombardier. While I may wholeheartedly disapprove of the decision being taken in the first place, and I think that the government are hiding behind rules and political name-calling to try and deflect (not very successfully) the critcism of handing the deal to Siemens, a contract is a contract (Rule of Acquisition number 17) and, unless something comes up that disqualifies the Germans, then it should go ahead as planned. So, what to do next? This is where I’ve been having a bit of a think today, and have had some ideas. Obviously, these are just my ideas, so don’t go saying “don’t be so fucking stupid!!” at me if you disagree.

  1. Merseyrail – Merseyrail have, as I think I’ve said, started the preliminaries of procuring new trains to replace their existing Class 507/508 fleet. The government in this case could incentivise Merseytravel to bring this process forward and encourage them to look at a Bombardier product similar to the Class 378; perhaps if the government were to pay for the enitre fleet to be made dual voltage.
  2. Pacer – the ubiquitous, not to mention thoroughly loathed, Pacer type will have to be replaced by 2019 as it cannot be reengineered to make it permissable under the accessibility terms of the Disability Discrimination Act (since superseded by the Equality Act). Bringing this forward so that they can be replaced before the very last minute would be an idea – while the idea is that the electrification of local lines in the north of England will see a cascade of the Class 319, it is still the case that additional capacity would be needed. So, rather than going through the intricate cascade alone, why not put in a like for like order that would replace all 300 odd Pacer vehicles? This could be written as part of the new franchise agreements, again with incentives that could push the TOCs to buying from Bombardier (or, dare one hope, a future British manufacturer [HA!!]). They needn’t all be EMUs either, if the government was prepared to bite the bullet, lift its new DMU embargo, and reinstate the proposal that was shelved when Lord A announced the electrification projects. 
  3. Manchester-Scotland – there is a plan that the Manchester-Scotland services currently operated by First TransPennine Express will eventually be hived off into a separate mini-franchise that would use electric traction once the electrification projects in the north-west are complete. A suggestion in the interim is that an additional order of Class 350s be procured until such time as purpose built stock can be sourced (the Class 350s would then go to enhance London Midland’s fleet). Bombardier have produced an EMU design for the Gautrain network in South Africa based on the Electrostar that may work well on such a service, with pairs of four-car units coupled together.

All told, I reckon these three could potentially account for as many as 600 odd vehicles, which could be a decent tide-over until the next big deal (Crossrail? Piccadilly Line? Bakerloo Line?) comes up. But the processes would have to start now. Of course, what would be helpful is the DfT allowing the TOCs and ROSCOs a greater degree of freedom in procuring their own rolling stock from whomever they so chose, rather than having specifications and decisions imposed on them from Marsham Street.

One final thing – when the Roads Man was doing the rounds yesterday following the Bombardier announcement, he maintained that his hands had been tied by the specifications set out in the original procurement document that had been drawn up when Lord A was at the DfT. On Newsnight last night, in the recorded piece before Paxman “interviewed” Roadie, there was one person that intimated that France and Germany are able to get around the EU procurement rules and hand so much of their rail business to their own domestic manufacturers (Alstom and Siemens), because they incorporate “socio-economic factors” (i.e. what would happen to the national economy in the event of those companies not getting contracts) into the procurement plans, while Britain has often times taken the cold hard view of “which one is the cheapest?”. Pressed on this by Paxo, the Roads Man indicated that for future procurement he and his Cabinet colleague would look at doing this, but that in this case his hands were tied. That kinda reminded me of the scene at the end of Coming to America, where the King and Queen are discussing the merits of Prince Akeem going ahead with his arranged marriage:

King Jaffe Joffer: Even if she agreed, they still could not marry, it is against the tradition.
Queen Aoleon: Well, it is a stupid tradition!
King Jaffe Joffer: Who am I to change it?
Queen Aoleon: I thought you were the King?

The Roads Man has had his feet under the desk for over a year, and has had a year to look at the Thameslink proposal. And yet he didn’t think of “changing the tradition”?

“‘We had no choice’ over Thameslink order—Hammond”
“Hammond ‘offers Bombardier hope’ despite losing Thameslink contract”
“Bombardier: end of the line for railway works”


2 Responses

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  1. […] be brought to the fore sooner rather than later (like the Pacer replacement for example , which I suggested and which Nigel Harris also includes). It is at this time that rational thought needs to be put in […]

  2. […] the Daily Express giving us some peace by shutting the fuck up) awarded to Bombardier. Indeed, I’ve already mentioned some ideas that I’ve had. No doubt other people will have others. This is a good start on […]

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