Posted 17th December 2012 | 9 Comments

Thameslink deal 'moves closer to completion'

NEW REPORTS suggest that the Department for Transport will reach 'commercial close' with Siemens over the £1.4 billion Thameslink rolling stock deal before Christmas.

However, the essential 'financial close', when banks agree the terms of private sector funding, is unlikely before the the New Year and is not yet guaranteed.

Even so, the reports are being seen as a fresh setback for Bombardier in Derby, which is still officially reserve bidder for the contract to build some 1,100 vehicles for the Thameslink Programme.

Derby North MP Chris Williamson has continued to criticise the Government's determination to complete the deal with Siemens because it is seen as a major factor in deciding the future of train-building in Britain.

He said: "It's been obvious from the start that the government's original decision was wrong. But successive transport secretaries have ploughed on regardless, seemingly blind to the wealth of evidence and deaf to the strength of feeling against the decision."

In a related development, there is growing speculation that the Intercity Express Programme could be pared down after leasing company Eversholt unveiled proposals to refurbish and upgrade the East Coast fleet of Mk4 coaches.

The Agility Trains consortium, which includes Hitachi, has already signed a £4.5 billion contract to supply 596 IEP vehicles which are to be assembled at a new plant in County Durham.

But it is now being suggested that the Government may not proceed with an option for a further 270 vehicles for East Coast, and decide instead to keep the existing Mk4 coaches for another 20 years or so, saving at least 60 per cent.

Rail minister Simon Burns has insisted that the Government remains committed to a modern East Coast fleet, but also warned that “as part of our commitment to secure the best deal for passengers and taxpayers, we are also looking at a range of options".

Hitachi has conceded that new IEP vehicles would be more expensive than refurbishing the Mk4s, but also claimed that new trains would be more reliable.

Reader Comments:

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

  • Lorentz, London

    @John Gilbert, Cradley, Herefordshire
    Their record and passenger experience speaks for itself.

  • David Faircloth, Derby

    Some interesting subjective comments, and some erroneous information, I'm afraid.

    Leo of Bedford's comments aren't supported by facts; the latest information published suggests that the most reliable inter city trains are Cross Country's Voyagers, the most reliable new generation DMUs are Southern's Turbostars, and the most reliable new generation EMUs are SWT's class 458s; two Bombardier and one Alstom built products. This doesn't seem to support his assertion that Bombardier trains break down twice as often as Siemens.

    So how does John Edwards support his claim that Voyagers and Turbostars are the worst trains on the network? And isn't c2c, which is exclusively Electrostar, usually the best performing operator on the network?

    John Edwards extolls the benefits of ICEs; who built them? Most have been built by Bombardier and its predecessors.And don't forget that every TGV includes some Bombardier built vehicles.

    Regarding David Callum's comments, I haven't journeyed on Siemens class 450s, but I've been on all of the others; I've been on Bombardier's Electrostars, Turbostars, Meridians and Voyagers, and on Hitchi 's Javelins. I haven't been on any of Alstom's new generation EMUs apart from Pendolinos, but I've been on 175s and 180s; all in all, quite a good mix of new generation trains, and its not been single voyages.

    Its easy to find faults in all of them; personally, I think I've found more "faults" in Siemens trains than Bombardier ones - the HVAC always seems more intrusive, the ride hasn't been as good (which, I acknowledge, could be caused by track), and the door to the universal toilet on the 185s seems underpowered (wouldn't open properly on the curves near Kirkham Abbey on one trip ). That's not saying there aren't faults on the Bombardier ones, but they tend to be more of the train operators making than the manufacturer's; Virgin specified Antolin seats in Voyagers and Super Voyagers, seats not lining up with windows because those who specified the trains want to get too many in, wrong sorts of toilets, etc. And, of course, the need to sit over the top of a bl**dy great diesel engine on the Voyager family of trains and 180s results from the customer's specification, and is terrible to passengers! But Bombardier trains (with their BR designed/conceived bogies) ride well; the worst ride by far I have experience for many years was on a Hitachi built Javelin last summer through the HS1 London tunnels (hope the ride doesn't carry over to IEPs - sick bags would be essential !!!!

    My personal preference for the new generation of trains is the Central specified Turbostars; they rode well, were quite quiet, and the choice of seat (Lazarini) and pitch was good. I found it just right for a long journey like Nottingham - Norwich. Second choice is a good riding Javelin; comfortable seats with sufficient legroom for a journey like St Pancras to Dover, but I find the decor dull.

    But my choice is subjective, not objective; I'm not in a position to determine which trains are best, I just know which I prefer. And this is the problem with some of the comments posted; they are personal, subjective, preferences based upon what the person posting the message believes.

    And in a way this is the problem with the way the DfT has procured Thameslink. It isn't really objective - it doesn't determine what is best for Thameslink, it just determines if the tendered designs meet its minimum requirements, and the prices tendered for those which do form the basis to determine which offer has the best net present value; and the bidder who's tender has the best NPV becomes the preferred bidder. And those who understand the maths have calculated that the result was inevitable; unless Siemens messed up big time with its technical bid, Siemens was bound to win. Bombardier could have submitted what was, using the criteria published by the DfT, the "best thing since sliced bread", but it would still have lost; and if Alstom had reached stage 4, Siemens would still have won, with it being reserve bidder, and not Bombardier. Is that right?

    And, by taking Thameslink forward as a PFI, the DfT has lumbered farepayers and taxpayers with a hefty bill for the next 30 years or so. Clearly, Mr Lorentz, the DfT hasn't thought at all about farepaying commuters in Greater London; or for taxpayers living in the Scilly or Shetland Islands, for that matter!

  • MikeB, Liverpool

    I have travelled on trains built by both Bombardier and Siemens and have noticed no problems on any of their products. I just hope that Siemens can sort out their finance problems as soon as possible and get the Desiros delivered. Finally, where are the correspondents from Derby who often take part in this forum? I would have thought that, as usual, they would be defending their local manufactturer to the hilt.

  • David Callam, Greater London

    I'm fed up with little Englanders trying to fob me off with inferior product just because it's British.
    I've travelled extensively on both manufacturers' trains and I agree with a number of other correspondents that the Siemans' vehicles are far superior.
    We've waited long enough for 'Thameslink 2000'. Please don't spoil it now for the sake of a political fix.

  • John Edwards, Woodford Halse

    @John Gilbert
    Pretty easy - have a look at what are widely considered as the worst trains on the network - Voyagers, Turbostars and Electrostars. Who built them? Bombardier.

    Why shouldn't British rail users have as good trains as those on the German network? Give me an ICE or Desiro anyday over Bombardier cattle trucks.

  • Leo, Bedford

    For the layman, the Bombardier trains break down on average twice as often as the Siemens.

    Rather have a decent train that gets me to work in one attempt please.

  • John Gilbert, Cradley, Herefordshire

    Mr Lorentz says that, "The vehicles supplied so far by Bombardier and the previous incarnations are clearly inferior to those built by Siemens." As a layman I should like to know why they are "inferior" and indeed why "clearly" so. On what grounds please?

  • lorentz, London

    There is a lot of comment in support of the UK-based train builder, but what about the commuter?

    The vehicles supplied so far by Bombadier and the previous incarnations are clearly inferior to those built by Siemens, but the unions are clearly intent on imposing shoddy build, uncortable, antiques on the travelling public. The Siemens trainis the right choice for Thameslink.

  • David Faircloth, Derby

    How on earth can we get this deal stopped.

    The way the government has taken this forward is contrary to law, but - as the law stands - only Bombardier (and perhaps Alstom) can mount a legal challenge at the appropriate time, which hasn't yet been reached.

    But we heard in the Autumn Statement the other week how austerity will have to last longer, borrowing targets are being missed, etc. So, as all of us who are UK taxpayers will end up having to fund the bill for the Thameslink trains, hasn't government got a moral duty to ensure it minimises the amount we have to pay?

    Why continue with this PFI when, by using traditional means of financing through ROSCOS and performance related contracts with the train manufacturers, hundreds of millions of pounds could be saved each year?

    And wouldn't this be morally better (and also better politically) than to cut the welfare budget?