Posted 14th June 2013 | 23 Comments

Siemens confirmed as Thameslink winner

Class 319 unit

The existing Thameslink fleet is to be cascaded to other routes, including some which are newly-electrified

SIEMENS  has been confirmed as the builder of a new £1.6 billion fleet for Thameslink, beating Derby-based Bombardier.

The announcement has triggered a fresh debate about train-building in Britain.

The Department for Transport said the deal was 'close to completion', although there will now have to be a ten-day standstill period before the contract can be signed.

The winning bid, from a consortium led by Siemens, was first announced in principle two years ago this month, and the long delay is believed to have been caused by financial issues. The proposed contract involves funding as well as the design and building of the fleet.

Siemens has developed a new version of its Desiro series for the bid, known as 'Desiro City'. The reported size of the fleet has varied slightly from time to time, but the DfT now says it will be 1,140 vehicles.

The trains are needed by 2018, so that the wider Thameslink Programme can be completed. This will involve more routes, including the Great Northern line to Peterborough, and a peak frequency through the central London section of 24 trains per hour in each direction.

The existing Thameslink fleet, which consists of Class 319 and Class 377 units, is to be cascaded to other routes – including some which are newly-electrified.

The runner-up in the competition was Bombardier in Derby, and that company will now be pinning its hopes on the next major order, thought be worth in the region of £1 billion, to build 600 vehicles for Crossrail.

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said that the Thameslink procurement must be the 'last to stack the odds against British jobs and apprenticeships'.

She continued: "It is inconceivable that any other EU country would have made the same decision, as is clear from the fact that nearly every train for the German and French rail network is built by their own workforce.

“After the doubts recently raised by the National Audit Office about delays to this project, Ministers must now say whether these trains will still arrive in time to enable new Thameslink services to begin in 2018. It would be a scandal if the Ministerial incompetence that has delayed this deal means that these vital new services cannot begin on time. It will be equally embarrassing if newly electrified lines are left without electric trains because the old Thameslink rolling stock is still needed in London.”

Reader Comments:

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

  • Steve, Nottingham

    MikeB, would you say "it is my understanding that Airbus did not make the A380, they just assembled it"?

    When you say "trains merely being assembled from parts brought in from elsewhere" you make it sound like a couple of dozen items arrive by lorry and are bolted together! The reality is that several hundred thousand specified parts are individually ordered by Derby and then assembled according to the design. This is how all manufacturing works these days, look at Boeing and the car companies. In fact Siemens do the same at their Krefeld factory in Germany (btw the carbody is designed and made in Derby).

    But anyway, my point was about design and engineering, not manufacture. You need to understand what skilled engineers do - calculations, control circuit logic, power circuit rating, performance, aerodynamics, structures, EMC.

    It's all very well ordering some motors and a control handle in the cab, how are they connected? How are the motors controlled and monitored? What action should the computer take if the motors over heat? How much output is required to meet the time table, given the weight of the train? How much current is used, what rating are the components? How are you going to maintain the train for 30 years? How big does the transformer need to be? Will it fall off after a year in service? Then there is the train's software, that monitors all the other bits. These, along with many other engineering activities, take place in Derby.

    (This correspondence is now closed.—Editor.)

  • MikeB, Liverpool

    @Steve, Nottingham. I agree that trains destined for the UK network are indeed designed in Derby but my understanding, from certain sources, is that no components are actually manufactured on site at Litchurch Lane - trains merely being assembled from parts brought in from elsewhere. If I am wrong, perhaps you will endeavour to enlighten me.
    @A. Kinge, Winchester. Yes I do know that the Bombardier bogies are based on an original BR design but, as you say, they are no longer manufactured here, which is the price paid for being taken over by a Germany-based multinational.

  • A Kinge, Winchester

    MikeB, Liverpool - the bogies that Bombardier will use are the Flexx Eco bogies and were originally designed in the UK by British Rail and manufactured in the UK back then. They have been tested under ICE 2 trains and even under Shinkansen trains and performed well. Sadly as you pointed out they are now made in Germany. We as a nation cannot let our last train building facility fail knowing full well that we will have to import trains from abroad far ahead into the future. Thousands will loose their jobs adding to our welfare bill and once its gone its gone. The national bias is truly astonishing with Britain just about the only major European economy featuring trains made in Germany, Italy, Japan, USA, and Spain running on its network.

  • Steve, Nottingham

    MikeB, Liverpool, your "understanding" is wrong. Trains are designed in Derby.

  • Roger Capel, Sheffield

    As for "no UK jobs", has everybody forgotten the workers at the Siemens plant in Hebburn on Tyne? They're doing the traction package, instead of the place being shut & them being "redeployed" to the queue at the local dole office!!

  • A Kinge, Winchester

    The German Transport Minister has announced an order for 300 Siemens ICE express trains with the Federal Minister expressing publically "that all the trains would be German built"

    The only foreign train ordered for work in Germany was a a metre gauge tram built by CAF in Spain and represents the first time that company has ever won a contract in that country.

    I have travelled extensively in both France, Germany and Italy and virtually every single emergency vehicle be it police, ambulance, fire are manufactured by their own domestic suppliers. Now contrast that with the situation in the UK. Our so called European partners are favouring their own domestic suppliers and protecting their own jobs and people for the sake of social cohesion and future prosperity.

  • MikeB, Liverpool

    @Philip McGaw, Macclesfield. If the order had gone to Bombardier, it is understand that Derby is basically an assembly plant with the majority of high-tech parts manufactured elsewhere. It is believed that the bodyshells are provided/welded by a specialist supplier, the bogies would come from Bombardier in Germany and traction packages from Bombardier in Sweden. Other items would come from third-party manufacturers in the UK and Europe. So don't get too hung-up about jobs and skills in the Derby area.

  • Michael, London

    It really 'irks' me how many are of the petty minded 'Little Englander's' mentality. Neither company are British. Just because one has a assembly plant in UK, most or all the parts would have been manufactured in the rest of the world.
    Be grateful we are getting 1100 new carriages under this govt regime!
    and that they are being built in the EU by an European company.

    If it was based on a cost only basis, all the units would have been built in CHINA and shipped to the UK. With no jobs or parts or anything for 'our' European Economy. Stop thinking small and remember we are part of the largest economy on earth - the EU.

  • Philip Russell, Carlisle

    Was there ever any point in naming Bombardier as a reserve bidder ? It seemed once Siemens were given preferred bidder status it was a blueprint for them to take as long as they liked to get started without being accountable to anyone,i guess either a result of clever lawyers writing their contract or politicians being incompetent or refusing to change their mind

  • John Edwards, Woodford Halse

    A shocking decision which is going to put the jobs of many British workers on the line.

  • Philip McGaw, Macclesfeild

    The British is British thing, is more about the work being done in Derby.

    If the work is carried out in derby, the staff who will be doing the work will be living in Derby, ergo the staff wages will be payed to people in the Derby area, the taxes paid by and for those staff will go tho the British Government. some of those staff will be new hires, some will go on to gain new skills, Bombardier in Derby will need a supply chain for everything from Sandwiches up; some of those items will be supplied by companies local to derby.

    but importantly the spending power of people in derby will go up; and the money will have a chance to stay in the area, rather than out the door to Germany (along with all the taxes)

    Those with job security are more likely to spend money

  • Steve, Nottingham

    Michael, London, This is not about "UK Corporate entity", it is about where the work is done. I you place an order with Siemens, the design work, the calculations, the software, the project management, the procurement, the manufacture, testing and validation will be done in Germany.
    If you place an order with Bombardier UK (i.e. Derby) much of the work will be done in Derby. Not all, no. But some. Hundreds of engineers will be employed in the UK to design the train.

  • Steve, Nottingham

    Lutz, London said "Good news; the better product won in the end."

    Firstly, how do you know that, have you seen either bid?

    Secondly, the decision was not made on the quality of the product, it was made on the financing of the deal. Siemens can borrow money at a lower rate than Bombardier.

  • A Kinge, Winchester

    Michael, London, The fees that Norman Foster earned for designing the Millau Viaduct Bridge, pale into insignificance compared to the value of the Thameslink train order. One architectural practice hardly compares with thousands of jobs at stake in Derby. As for xenophobia when there are British built trains running in Germany and France and both governments truly stop their national bias in the whole of public sector procurement then maybe people will not get upset about this deal but as their are not and given that both govts are not going to change then I think it is quite right that the UK government looks after its own. Its not as if we haven't been buying trains from Siemens already.

  • Chris, Birmingham

    Well said Michael. People always seem to get so patriotic about British products, yet forget the standards of many products in the past were woeful compared to their European counterparts. People losing jobs will always be a difficult pill to swallow, but a better product is a better product.

  • Lee, Manchester

    Great news, after two years since first announcing the prefered bidder, the DfT has now cofirmed the fact. Once London has its new Thameslink trains, will the 319's being cascaded to the Northwest be refurbished? Afterall, they will be approaching 25-30 years old by the time they become available, assuming there are no further delays. If they are to be refurbished, who will be carrying out the work? Surely this could be an opportunity for Bombardier as Siemens, as far as I am aware, don't do this sort of work?

  • Michael, London

    I have yet to hear a single person in France or any other country complain or be bitter and vocal about the Millau Viaduct Bridge (the most beautiful bridge ever constructed) was designed in part by Norman Foster (UK) and many of the components were manufactured across the EU (some in "even" the UK).
    This silly inward looking xenophobia about the rest of world is doing nothing but talking the UK to the bottom of the barrel. Nay Say'ers - try to find something to be proud of.
    Thameslink trains, we should be Grateful we are able to actually get 1100 carriages in a single order under this con-dem the nation via a self imposed austerity regime.

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    How 'British' is 'British' ? If a company or subsidiary is owned by a 'British' company ? If the people doing the work (manufacturing, assembling and design) are British ? If the company is foreign but the work is done in the UK ? Or vica-versa where the company is UK registered but the work done abroad ? If 51% of the components are built by or sourced from British-registered Companies ? Nowadays no-one knows who owns what. There are many British-owned companies in France for example but they always employ French nationals even though all the profits return to the UK. In fact the UK/British are very good at owning all sorts of foreign companies (the best in the world it is said) and then getting all the profits sent back to the UK.

  • Michael, London

    I really do not understand all the 'fuss' about Bombardier or Siemen's.
    Fact is Bombardier is NOT a UK nor British Company - both are GERMANY. Just because one assumed the former BR factory at Derby, does not make it a UK Corporate entity.

  • Lutz, London

    Good news; the better product won in the end.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    After two years we are almost there on the Thameslink order awarded to Siemens so the main lesson needs to be future awards of preferential awards must have a time limit as to when the finalisation MUST be signed off else the award goes to the second preferred candidate who if a delay seems to arise can at least take forward plans in case the order is re-awarded.

    Questions still remain as to when these trains will actually be delivered and the position re lines expecting cascaded electric trains.

    One final point is the question re services to Moorgate which due to the size of Great Northern tunnels is I understand unsuitable for these trains which surely means these services would be better transferred to TFL and added to the Overground network. This does raise questions as to TFL operating services outside GLA area but this is no different to services to Watford.

    Transfer to TFL raises questions as to class 313 replacement and whether Overground trains ( with metropolitan Line style seating!) would fit Morgate tunnels ?

  • MikeB, Liverpool

    As Siemens were confirmed as the winning bidders 2 years ago, the civil servants at the DfT were never going to change their minds. If the people and politicians of Derby had successfully lobbied for cancellation of the Siemens bid, it would surely have meant that the bidding process would have had to restart, resulting in further delay and there would still have been no guarantee of Bombardier coming out on top. The concern of many people in the North West is the fact that Thameslink may now need to keep their Class 319s until 2018 and unless alternative EMUs are cascaded, Pacers, Class 150s and 156s will be running under the wires for and extra two or three years.

  • David Faircloth, Derby

    Hopefully, there will be some form of Parliamentary investigation into this (and the IEP project).

    PFIs are expensive ways of procuring - just look at the problems being faced by many of our hospital trusts; having said that, it can at times be the best way of procuring infrastructure as it keeps costs of government balance sheets.

    But the "normal" way of procuring trains here in Great Britain doesn't directly involve government anyway, and the same end result as will be achieved from the Thameslink deal could have been established without using a PFI at a much lower cost to all of us who pay UK taxes; moreover, because of the length of this PFI arrangement, a deal has been struck which will impose an unnecessary burden upon our children and grandchildren as well as us.

    Just as in steam days, when arguments were made about the supremacy of Swindon or Doncaster or Derby, some railway enthusiasts claim that Siemens' products are superior to those from Bombardier or vice versa; but this isn't relevant here. Bombardier's Thameslink train could have been the best thing since sliced bread, and it could even have had lower capital and maintenance costs than that proposed by Siemens; but - unless it were to give its trains away! - it could not have won this tendering exercise. Those who understand the maths involved at stage 4 of the tender evaluation process have calculated that the difference in credit ratings between Siemens and Bombardier gives the former an advantage of £500m when calculating the net present value; most people will agree that this is an unassailable advantage to Siemens.

    Even the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has acknowledged that the end result was inevitable. Quite simply, Thameslink was determined by credit ratings and not by the product being offered. Bombardier didn't stand a chance unless Siemens messed-up big time with its technical proposal; and that was very unlikely

    So what we really need are answers to many questions.

    Why was this taken forward as a PFI in the first place? Is the DfT grossly incompetent or was there a hidden agenda? Did it not understand how its tender evaluation criteria worked? What was the Treasury role in this? Did ministers understand the likely outcome? If they did, why did they "sign-off" the process? Why, in times of austerity, is it still going forward as a PFI even though cheaper methods of procuring are available? How much did ministers really know about what was going on? Why did Philip Hammond tell the Transport Select Committee what he did back in September 2010? Was he badly briefed, or did he deliberately set out to mislead? Did he know that it was proposed to merge FCC with Southern and part of South Eastern into a new "super Thameslink" franchise? Did he know Southern had been let as an enabling franchise to assist with delivery of the Thameslink project, and that it had the necessary expertise to procure trains? Why did Mr Hammond claim that there was insufficient time to re-run the procurement exercise when new trains are already on test for Southern, and that these are the result of a tender issued AFTER he addressed the Select Committee? Does the present Secretary of State realise that he had the option to terminate the process had he so wished, and that justifiable reasons for so doing could be found?

    These are just a few of the many questions which I believe need to be answered.