Posted 23rd December 2011 | 11 Comments
eVoyager project costs still seen as too high by DfT
THE TRANSPORT SECRETARY Justine Greening has given qualified approval of a plan to insert an additional pantograph-carrying vehicle in CrossCountry Voyagers, but she has warned Bombardier that high costs are still an issue.
In a letter to Bombardier Transportation president Andre Navarri, Ms Greening tells him that "there will be parts of the CrossCountry network which will not be fully electrified in the medium term and where the eVoyager conversion proposition appears to be relevant and where a good case might be made...I have therefore asked my department to move to the next stage work, including the firm pricing for this option, so that a decision on this project can then be made as soon as practicable".
Ms Greening's proposal would create a bi-modal fleet, but industry observers are questioning the DfT's intention to consider the conversion of only '30-35 sets', partly because such a small order would be unlikely to be carried out in full at Bombardier Derby, where there is no steel production line. Instead, the additional bodies could be built, as were the original Voyagers, at Bruges in Belgium.
CrossCountry alone operates 57 Voyager sets, and when the Virgin and East Midlands Trains fleets of similar rolling stock are taken into account there are 104 sets in all, known either as Voyagers or Meridians. All are operated on routes which are already partly electrified.
The idea has been discussed for more than two years, but Ms Greening is still giving it only very qualified approval at this stage.
She tells M. Navarri: "I am enthusiastic about proceeding with the project, subject to ensuring that the commercial details secure taxpayer value for money, which I know that Bombardier and its partners are keen to demonstrate.
"I would encourage Bombardier Transportation and Voyager Leasing to look very carefully at reducing the capital costs and leasing rates, with a reasonable internal rate of return, as these proposals currently look very expensive."
Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.