Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Providing Thor with Mjolnir

Posted in Business, Great Britain, High Speed, Rolling stock by Chairman Pip on 11 September 2011

Just under a year ago, Bombardier presented the DfT with a proposal that it called “Operation Thor”, in which it would build new pantograph trailer cars that would be fitted to its Voyager family of express DMUs, converting them to bi-mode units. There was little said about this at the time, given that all attention was focused on the Intercity Express Programme. However, the furore over Bombardier’s loss of the Thameslink contract as we all know has led to questions about what can be done to try and guarantee the workforce at Litchurch Lane. Of course, we also know that the unions and the Daily Express think that the way to do this is simply strip the contract from the company that won the bid fair and square and hand it over to someone else. This as we know is totally unfair, and would leave the DfT open to massive legal action that they would almost certainly lose. But, the Roads Man has made it clear he is looking at all potential ways to put work the way of Bombardier – as a consequence, the Crossrail procurement has been delayed to ensure that it can include the kind of socio-economic factors that people have been talking about. Of course, delaying it means that there will be even longer between the completition of Bombardier’s various outstanding contracts and the start of production of the Class 345. So, the DfT are now returning to the Operation Thor idea. CrossCountry, Bombardier and Network Rail are now engaged in a feasibility study looking at whether building a new pantograph vehicle and converting CrossCountry’s Class 220 fleet to electric traction is considered value for money.

We anticipate that, if it proceeds, this work would be delivered largely from within the industry’s UK operations and will safeguard jobs at the Bombardier works, including their design team and with the company’s supply chain.
Department for Transport

While the construction order would not be huge, the idea is that Bombardier would also deal with the conversion work, which would be a means of guaranteeing the skilled jobs that might otherwise be lost as a result of the lack of work. It does show however that the government is trying its best for Bombardier and the companies in its supply chain, even though it can no longer do anything about Thameslink. Of course, even this is not good enough for some people.

 Of course new business for Bombardier is to be welcomed but we are running out of track on this. Too much is at stake for government to do anything less than to commit to a decent future for rail manufacturing in the UK. That still lies in the Thameslink contract – which is more than 10 times bigger than the rumoured order for electric trains – so we will be fighting every step of the way for government to consider again their dreadful decision to send this work out of the UK.
Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite

“Cross Country contract may save Derby Bombardier jobs”

A CrossCountry Class 220 - if Operation Thor goes ahead, it would provide new work for Bombardier, while at the same time reducing "under the wires" running.


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  1. […] the contract and hand it over to Bombardier; and so on. Now they appear to be taking credit for the proposal that came out this week that could see the deal to refurbish CrossCountry’s Voyager fleet, with the addition of […]

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