Posted 5th July 2011 | 18 Comments

'We had no choice' over Thameslink order—Hammond

THE TRANSPORT SECRETARY Philip Hammond is defending his department's decision to award a £1.5 billion rolling stock order to Siemens, rather than Derby-based Bombardier. Bombardier, which is the last train builder in Britain, has announced the loss of almost 1,450 jobs, although two-thirds of those are staff on short-term contracts.

Mr Hammond and transport minister Theresa Villiers have been under fire for placing the order with a company which will build the trains in Germany, notwithstanding the possible creation of up to 2,000 supply chain jobs in north east England.

However, it's feared that up 18,000 other jobs are also at risk in the East Midlands if the Bombardier works winds down.

But it's emerged that the Thameslink order, even though it is for 1,200 vehicles, might not have saved the Derby works in its present form.

It's reported that Bombardier had already warned the government that it would shed some 1,200 jobs, even if it had won the Thameslink order, because other contracts would all have come to an end by 2014.

Mr Hammond told the BBC that the terms of the procurement had been set by the previous Labour government, and that there had been no alternative to awarding the contract to Siemens. 

Cancellation of the process would have delayed the project by a further four to five years, which he felt was unacceptable

However, he conceded that other countries do take local economic factors into consideration when awarding contracts, which is permissable under European law, and he would now be investigating with business secretary Vince Cable how future procurements in Britain could be changed to include wider benefits.

Reader Comments:

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

  • Anderson, Fareham, UK

    I too am starting to tire of political excuses. WHy is it that politicians in every single other European country manage to protect their domestic industry despite supposedly playing by the same rules? I doubt if this is a Labour government problem - I am sure that the termsof the contract and procurement are all drafted by civil servants at the DFT and that the very same civil servants are still there now in the very same jobs. Those civil servants now work for Philip Hammond - he could have altered the terms of the procurement process with minimal penalties had he chosen to do so.

  • MikeB, Liverpool, UK

    I was interested to read elsewhere that Hammond has offered some hope for Derby, by hinting that the government may bring forward other train orders for which Bombardier would be able to compete. If this is the case, the DMU fleet of Northern is over 20 years-old and desperately needs replacing (particularly those awful Pacers and Class 150s). Furthermore, the Class 319s due to be transferred from Thameslink, at some yet to be determined date, for the Lancashire Triangle electrification are also around the same age. Therefore, Hammond should give priority to ordering brand-new trains for Northern, instead of doing the usual thing of providing "cast-offs" from other TOCs.

  • Claydon William, Norwich, Norfolk

    If Phillip Hammond; the minister; had 'no choice'; then why should we as tax payers bother having a minister/ministry at all ?.

    If our own government departments; people that we vote in to government to take care of our affairs; fail to assess the likely social impacts of their decisions then what is the point of having them in employment ?

    The 'Department of Transport' has become incompetent and 'unfit for purpose'. Just abolish the whole department, and just get the treasury to divvy up the transport budget directly, and place tenders to supply in the 'European Journal'.

    I just don't see the point in having highly paid politicians ignoring the very people that elect them.

  • George Davidson, Newport

    I wonder what the great Victorian engineers would have to say about all this? The government say we need more engineering graduates and then go and pull a stunt like this. Perhaps they would like to see us relegated to a nation of burger flippers and cleaners? Could this outcome be yet more Labour Party incompetence or were they right to set the procurement process for whoever offers the best deal? (Look at all the people who buy foreign built cars).

    The present government should now press ahead with the desperately needed electrification of the south Wales valleys and hopefully get the Derby plant building the trains.

  • Anoop, London

    I'm sure the Government could have thought up an excuse to re-open the tendering process with sensible criteria. Another couple of years' delay wouldn't matter much, as the 'Thameslink 2000' project is already 12 years late. The closure of the Derby train-building factory will mean there will be no future innovation in train technology in this country.

  • David Faircloth, Derby, UK

    If anyone's interested, the Thameslink invitation to tender is archived on the DfT's website.

    Hammond's assertion is incorrect; the ITT makes it clear that he DID have a choice (fourth paragraph, page 17 of the PDF document)

  • Graham, Edinburgh

    I'm getting fed up with this government screwing up then saying they could do nothing about it as it was the fault of the previous government. Dont get me wrong, the previous government isnt blameless but Mr Hammond et al need to take responsibility for their actions. I dont believe for one minute that there was nothing they could do.

    Bombardier are a great company and have produced some great trains. Very sad news!

  • Chris, London

    How many of the components in Bombardier's products are British anyway? - I seem to remember when new trains from the Derby works were running late a year or two ago Bombardier cited problems with suppliers, some of which were Italian and Chinese.

    If I was a TOC facing the consequences of late delivery of Class 172 DMUs from Bombardier, I'd also be asking if there was an alternative out there....

  • Andrew Kinge, Brisbane, Australia

    I weep for my former home. When nothing is left, when the City have sold everything, when the taxes run out because no one is working these faceless civil servants will lose their jobs along with their polictical masters and join the unemployed masses living on UN food aid. This is disgusting. Britain could keep several railway workshops open producing a planned steady supply of trains, likewise a number of ship yards could have continued producing a planned supply of RN ships, and countless other industries could have survived but the wreckers have had their day and these industries will never come back.

  • Lee, Manchester, England

    It makes me cringe that ministers are only just becoming aware of the fact that all of our European neighbours take immediate localised economic issues into account for procurement of rolling stock and we don't. it's no wonder we have hardly any train building industry left after once exporting to every other country in the world. However for those people who think british companies could be sustained by the home market, think again. The European builders supply trains throughout Europe, not just in France or Germany for example. Britain simply does not buy enough rolling stock to sustain a manufacturer by itself and the European countries, rather like America, look after their own, making our market penetration in Europe somewhat optimistic at best!

  • Zoe, Southampton, uk

    Just want to register my disgust at our gutless transport minister. Does the cost of the unemployment benefits, let alone the loss of skills, ever get taken into account?


  • Colin, London

    I am feed up of these sour grapes Bombardier and Siemens entered into a competition to build new trains for the Thameslink project, as far as understand Siemens won fair and square. In the past 5 years Bombardier have won orders for class 172 DMU's from London Midland ,Class 378's for London Overground, S stock, and 2009 stock for London Underground, Class 379 for the Stansted Express, with the exception of class 395's from Hitachi for HS1. Bombardier have won most passenger orders in England and Wales, the only other major orders in Great Britain that they didn't win were for the Class 380's for Scotrail, and the additional Class 390 Pendolino's for West Cost Main Line.
    Bombardier have done well in the past five years, all this posturing ensure that when Crossrail places it's orders for it's trains, Bombardier will then win it.
    The point would have been made, we might like to believe that we live in a free market, but there are political consequences for these decisions, even if the product offered inferior and cost more, local politicians will play the xenophobic card in order to further there own political whims.

  • Tony, Colchester, UK

    Sad that in time of economic problems we give jobs to Germany who make no effort to buy anything from our suppliers. How on earth could a contract be drawn up so that the procurment process was such that, no alternative existed.
    Stupid civel servants who no nothing about industry and how it works. At least they are going to get a taste of the medicine over the next few years as the Coalition \"sacks lots of them\". May be the survivors will learn a few lessons!

  • Tony Pearce, Reading, UK

    Siemens trains are better, more reliable and cheaper.

    If I buy a car I go for those qualities as well.

    It's sad for anyone to lose a job but the hard reality of commerce is that the best product wins.

    If Bombardier look at the reasons why they lost out and put right those reasons, they have a bright future . All is not lost.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex, England

    So much for British jobs for British workers then!!

    I suppose the VFM does not take into account the cost of benefits to unemployed workers who will then be told to be actively seeking employment in order to claim benefit!!

    Its also worth remembering that Boris has cancelled plans for new tube trains so that is even less work for Bomberdier to bid for!

    Funny how they give the illusion of being Anti-Europe when in reality they dont know how the French and Germans manage to ensure that they at least build their own trains.

  • Bob, London

    Bombardier aren't a British company.
    Siemens aren't a British company.
    So what's the difference?
    The 'jobs' would all go eventually anyway. The problem is that we don't have British companies, building British products, using British people, for British markets.
    The idea that we have to 'compete' with everyone in the world is ludicrous. Taken to its logical conclusion it means that NOBODY in Britain should have a job because EVERYTHING can be produced, by someone else, somewhere cheaper in the world. How the hell are we supposed to 'compete', foe example, with the Chinese who can work for a bowl of rice and a dollar a day?
    It is no use whinging about services, better products and 'expertise'. It will only be a matter of time before China (and India etc) have all this and thus can beat any British company on price! The world is not a giant Monopoly board, with neat and pretty little rules that we must all obey just so that the Islington Moron Classses can bimble around at their cocktail parties babbling their one world fantasies.

    The world is real. Reality is unemployment, not one world childish fantasies.
    I p*ss on Democracy if this is what it means.

  • David Faircloth, Derby, UK

    For Hammond to say cancellation of the process would have delayed the project by a further four or five years is complete rubbish. If managed competently, a new tendering exercise could be undertaken which would reach preferred bidder stage before the end of this year.

    The above timescale is not wide speculation on my part, but based upon experience over many years in this activity.

  • Bill, Stoke, UK

    Its called best value/best practice as embraced by all UK political parties in government

    Otherwise known as screw you Britain, and your people

    British democracy - nothing more than a form of collective mental illness to facilitate the above