Posted 18th February 2009 | 7 Comments

Campaign gains support against Hitachi £7.5 billion train deal

“Winning these contracts is not just good for Bombardier, it is good for Derby’s economy as a whole says chief executive and president, Tom Glick of Derby County FC.

DERBY City football club – which counts among its season ticket holders Geoff Hoon, the Transport Secretary who last week announced a £7.5 billion inter-city express train contract going to the Japanese manufacturer Hitachi — has joined the growing clamour to get the contract switched to the consortium that includes Derby-based Bombardier Transportation.

The Government is now being challenged to ‘change track’ on its decision to give the contract for 1,400 new carriages to Agility rains — which comprises Hitachi, John Laing and Barclays — and switch the order to the Express Rail Alliance, which comprises Bombardier along with Siemens, Angel Trains and Babcock & Brown.

The ‘change track’ campaign has been launched by local newspaper, the Derby Evening Telegraph, and has gained support of trade unions, all the main political parties on Derby City Council, and from East Midlands industry, including with the regional rail industry.

The Derby Evening Telegraph’s deputy editor Neil White said: “We believe the Government has made a serious mistake in selecting a Japanese-led consortium ahead of Derby train-maker Bombardier as the preferred bidder for the £7.5bn contract to build new Intercity trains.

“One of the main planks of the successful bid was that it would create or safeguard 12,500 jobs in this country.

“So far, nobody, from Government or the [Agility] consortium, has been able to tell us where those jobs are or will be.

“Thus, we owe it to the 12,000 workers who depend on Bombardier for their jobs to try to get the Department for Transport to change its mind.

Derby City Council’s Lib-Dem leader Hilary Jones said she would be backing Bombardier and looking at ways in which the authority could help. “There are some big questions about why Bombardier missed out when it is a leading train-maker.”

Chris Williamson, leader of the Derby’s Labour group, said: “Bombardier is Britain’s last train manufacturer and provides a significant amount of employment directly and indirectly in the supply chain.”

Conservative group leader Philip Hickson also backed the campaign. “I was absolutely astonished when the selection was announced,” he said. “I was just stunned – it’s a total slap in the face for Derby workers.”

George Cowcher, chief executive of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 4,000 businesses, has also backed the campaign. “The chamber will be doing all it can to highlight how important it is that the Government supports Bombardier,” he said.

The Derby and Derbyshire Rail Forum, representing railway companies and suppliers in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and East Staffordshire, said it was “astounded and dismayed to hear the Department for Transport had let the largest ever train building contract in the UK to a consortium led by the Japanese firm Hitachi.

“The news is a bitter blow to Derby-based Bombardier, the only current train builder in the UK, who were part of the opposing Express Rail Alliance consortium.”

Peter Roberts, the Forum’s Vice-Chairman, said: “This is terrible news for the East Midlands as a centre for rail excellence and the whole supply chain involved with Bombardier in Derby.

“We are struggling to understand the logic behind this decision at a time when the UK is suffering the effects of a global recession and experiencing the highest level of unemployment in over a decade. The Derby and Derbyshire Rail Forum urges Geoff Hoon and the Department for Transport to reverse this decision and safeguard the skills available in the Derbyshire region.

“The situation is similar to the recent dispute in the energy sector with workers demanding that British jobs are given to British workers. Without the support of central Government the entire manufacturing industry, not just in rail, is at serious risk of catastrophic collapse. The Government must act swiftly and decisively in order to safeguard the future of this great country and its people.”

Three trade unions — the RMT, the Transport Salaried Staff Association, and Unite — are also fighting the decision to award the contract for the new trains, which will operate on the Great Western and East Coast main lines, to the consortium including Hitachi. 

The unions are also challenging the Government’s claims that the contract will safeguard 12,500 jobs, including 500 that would be created by setting up an assembly plant in Ashby-de-la-Zouch (Leics), Sheffield or Gateshead.

Now Derby County FC — The Rams — has joined the campaign. The club’s chief executive and president, Tom Glick, said he was fully behind the campaign caling on the Department for Transport to award the £7.5bn Intercity Express contract to the consortium including Bombardier, which employs over 2,200 people at its Litchurch Lane factory.

Before the start of the current football season, Bombardier signed a one-year deal to sponsor Derby County’s kit, with a view to developing a long-term relationship with the club.

Mr Glick said that Bombardier was not only important to the club, but also to the city, which was why he was backing the ‘change track’ campaign.

He said: “Winning these contracts is not just good for Bombardier, it is good for Derby’s economy as a whole.

“I was very disappointed to learn that Bombardier had not been named as the preferred bidder for this massive contract. It would make a big difference to the company and the many suppliers who rely on Bombardier’s success.

“It is my understanding that this contract would not only secure jobs, but create new ones.

“And it would secure jobs now, at a time when the UK economy really needs them.”

One Derby Evening Telegraph reader commented today: “Geoff Hoon has been part of this decision making process. He is a Derby season ticket holder and lives in Breaston, lets get on to him and see what he has to say!”

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Craig, Romford

    on the other hand, i believe that it is good that the train deal has gone to Japan/China, as currently they have some of the fastest services globally. if they can design and create ones like they have over there for our country, we could see a new era of rail over here as we upgrade to faster services as found over there.

  • Chris Reynell, Longstock, UK

    As you all know Britain led the inventions for railways as we know them; including track and signalling, tilting vehicles and regenerative energy (over 60 years ago!).

    However, for about 40 years this country let go traditional industries like mining, fishing, farming and engineering in favour of "buying and selling money in the city" and that sort of thing.

    If we can believe the politicians, we will have two first class UK train manufacturing sites using technology from around the world.

    When HS 2, 3, 4 and 5 are built our home industry will flourish and we could be a world leader in sustainable low carbon transport.

    We must reclaim the world's business in the skills we excel in - science, technology and engineering. This country is responsible for around 90% of the world's inventions - so stop giving them away and let us all benefit from them!


  • g davies, derby, uk

    British jobs for British workers? i think not, we are all regretting the severe outcome of this recession and we should support local workers in our stance to safeguard our local economy region by region,it is not acceptable for a British government more so in times of difficulty to adopt a foreign approach to building trains for Britain,we have the skills in this country and we should use them to our advantage at whatever cost,as we all benefit in the long term.we invented trains and we should be the leader in this field not demolishing our skills based industry but preserving it for the before profits?

  • Mackenzie Soley, London, UK

    There's still the Stanstead Express EMUs for Bombardier along with finishing the 377/5, 378 and the Turbostar orders. after that there's all those nice Thameslink NXEMUs that need building and Crossrail is likely to want the same design. Still alot out there for Bombardier to get. To be honest losing the IEP fleet may be a good thing as it can work on its EMU and DMU fleets that are going to be built.

  • Brian Pugh, Okehampton, England

    People who are campaigning for Bombardier don't seem to realise that if they get the contract then the lions share of the build will go to Siemens providing employment for German workers and not British.

  • Josh Pugh, Mousehole, England

    I think it's gone to the right builder Agility Trains and I like the design of the IEP

  • Josh Pugh, Mousehole, England

    I think it's to late because it's gone to the right one which is Agility Trains and I like the design