Posted 10th February 2012 | 1 Comment
Bombardier says it will stay – at least for now
BOMBARDIER has announced that its train-building works in Derby are to stay open until 2014 at least. The news has saved about 1,600 jobs for the moment, but the longer-term future is still uncertain.
The Canadian-owned company has been reviewing its UK operations since the government decided to award the £1.4 billion Thameslink rolling stock contract to Siemens last June.
Although the choice of the German train-builder as preferred bidder was widely criticised on the grounds that the wider economic effects in Britain of building the trains abroad were not taken into account, the Government has remained adamant that it will be signing the contract with Siemens soon.
The choice of Siemens was a major blow for the Derby works at Litchurch Lane, where Bombardier had been planning to make the site its specialist plant for manufacturing aluminium train bodies.
Following the Thameslink announcement, the only major contract still in progress later last year was the order for 194 S-Stock trains for London Underground, which is due to be completed by 2014.
When the news broke that Litchurch Lane was at risk, a campaign to save the works was launched in Derby, which included a rally in the city attended by 10,000 people, as well as a petition with 50,000 signatures and a delegation to Parliament.
Since then, Derby has been awarded a contract to build 130 Electrostar vehicles for Southern. Ironically, these are needed because existing rolling stock cannot be transferred to Southern from the Thameslink route at the end of next year, as had been planned, as a result of delays to the order for new Thameslink trains, which was originally due to be placed several years ago.
But even without this order, Bombardier has decided that it is worth bidding for new train business in Britain. This will include the new fleet needed for Crossrail as well as a project to insert a pantograph car in at least some CrossCountry Voyagers, converting them into bi-modal trains.
John Forkin, who is managing director of Marketing Derby, said, "This is fantastic news for Derby but also for the UK. It would have been an act of economic madness if as a country we had lost the ability to manufacture trains.
"It is important that Bombardier is allowed to bid on a level playing field for future contracts, starting with the massive Crossrail deal. The government must deliver on its promises to learn from past mistakes on procurement.
"Ministers are accountable for ensuring civil servants at the DfT understand the changes required in procurement. We will continue to press the case until we see evidence of this in the Invitation to Tender for Crossrail."
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