German group Siemens is the preferred bidder to build and maintain 1,200 train carriages for the Thameslink upgrade.
Bombardier Transportation, which builds trains in Derby, had been hoping to win the multibillion-pound contract to build and maintain the new trains for the key rail route, which links Brighton on the south coast to commuter towns north of London via the centre of the capital.
Transport Minister Theresa Villiers said that a consortium led by Germany’s Siemens had beaten Bombardier to become the preferred bidder.
Siemens said the move would create 2,000 new jobs in the UK and would ease overcrowding on the Bedford to Brighton, north-south cross-London Thameslink route by bringing in 1,750-passenger electric commuter trains from 2015.
But Labour said it was “a black day” for Bombardier which recently lost out to Hitachi of Japan on another big UK contract - for inter-city trains. And the Unite union said the announcement was “a hammer blow for Derby and British manufacturing”, while Bombardier said it was “extremely disappointed” it had not been selected.
Subject to the final contract being signed, the carriages will be built at Siemens’ plant at Krefeld near Dusseldorf in Germany. The award to Siemens will mean 300 extra jobs at its factory in Hebburn, Tyne and Wear, and there will be two new maintenance depots built - one at Three Bridges near Crawley in West Sussex and the other at Hornsey in north London.
Villiers stressed that while she understood Bombardier’s disappointment, the Siemens bid had been “the better deal” and would provide passengers with “modern, greener and more-reliable trains”.
“This is a major step forward for the long-awaited Thameslink programme which will make life better for thousands of commuters,” she said.
But shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said the reality was that the “new trains will be manufactured abroad”. “The Tory-led Government’s claim to want to support the British manufacturing that is vital for jobs and growth is exposed today as nothing more than a sham,” Eagle said.
Mark Young, regional co-ordinating officer for the Unite union, said the news was a “hammer blow for Derby and for British manufacturing”. “The Government’s decision to award this contract to a consortium which does not have British manufacturing and British job creation as its prime focus is absolutely disgraceful.”
The full fleet of new trains will be in use by 2018 when up to 24 trains an hour will operate on Thameslink services through central London, reducing the need for passengers to change on to London Underground.
See E&T’s feature on high-speed rail.