Government under renewed pressure over Thameslink

Posted on 4 Jul 2011 by The Manufacturer

The Labour Party today called for the Government to review its controversial decision to award the £1.5bn Thameslink train contract to Siemens.

It was hoped that the contract, which involved the manufacturing of 1,200 trains for the Thameslink railway project would go to the Canadian company Bombardier, which employs around 3,000 people at its plant in Derbyshire.

As well as the jobs at the plant, “up to 20,000 jobs in the supply chain” could be affected, said a letter written by Shadow Business Secretary John Denham and his transport counterpart Maria Eagle. The decision by government was said by Labour to have “dealt a body-blow to British manufacturing.”

Denham and Eagle also said that future contracts for the Crossrail and High Speed Two projects are more likely to go to Siemens, as the company producing the 1,200 Thameslink carriages. The combined value of these projects is estimated to be worth £3.5bn.

In the letter, Denham and Eagle wrote: “The Thameslink contract needs to undergo a full independent review. A review must take into account the effect on the UK economy that the loss of this contract to a foreign consortium would create.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable and Transport Secretary Philip Hammond wrote to David Cameron last week, expressing concerns that UK-based firms are consistently losing out to their European rivals in high-value procurement contests. This reflects concerns on both sides in the House of Commons.

Calling for a government review of how it can boost the private sector in the UK, the letter called for an examination of “what more we can do to improve the business environment for companies competing for government contracts”.

“There is a perception that other EU countries appear to manage their public procurement processes with a sharper focus on domestic supply than we have hitherto,” Cable and Hammond added.

Philip Hickson, leader of Derbyshire City Council, went to a meeting at Bombardiers headquarters in Berlin last week to discuss the potential strategies and solutions to the looming job losses.

“We were hoping, in terms of the discussion, there might be some mileage in moving other things around in Europe to bring to Derby but clearly that is not going to be possible.”

He added: “I understand Bombardier has called all their workers to a meeting on Tuesday and although we were not told directly, I believe that is when the news of the full consequences of the loss of this contract are going to be.”

Bombardier’s Litchurch Lane plant in Derby is the last train manufacturer in the UK, boasting a 150-year history.

George Archer