Chris Williamson: It's very nearly end of the line in fight for rail deal U-turn
LISTENING to Transport Minister Simon Burns in a pre-Christmas parliamentary debate, confirming the betrayal of Derby's proud rail industry, was among my bitterest moments since coming into politics.
The battle to persuade the Government to rethink its decision not to award Bombardier the Thameslink contract last year has been arduous and enduring. It involved hundreds of hours of commitment from politicians, including myself, business leaders and tens of thousands of Derby people who signed petitions and protested.
Now, another nail has been hammered into the coffin after Mr Burns confirmed that commercial agreement had been reached with rival bidder Siemens. The final hurdle is "financial close", which basically means checking that Siemens has adequate finance in place to deliver the contract. And Mr Burns says that is expected next month.
The backhanded manner in which the Tory-led Government ignored endless well-founded concerns over its process and decisions is scandalous. It makes it difficult to brush myself down and take any satisfaction from giving it my all and trying my hardest. Instead, as we near the end of this 18-month campaign, I'm left with a feeling of emptiness and anger. The arguments have not been considered and rejected but ignored and neglected.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
In the pre-Christmas House of Commons debate that I secured, Mr Burns failed to respond to my points about serious questions over the legitimacy of the Government's role in this contracting process. Nor did he respond to challenges about why Siemens Project Ventures GmbH was allowed to be part of the process, despite EU regulations which should have precluded it. He didn't respond either to the expert evidence I cited, which had been considered by the Transport Select Committee, showing Siemens' credit rating gave it an unfair and discriminatory advantage.
Even now, it beggars belief that the traitorous decision over Thameslink came just three months after Prime Minister brought his Cabinet to Derby. Mr Cameron said the point of coming to Derby was "to ask one fundamental question – what can Government do to help the economy to rebalance...to invest and employ people". His words ring very hollow after doing the opposite.
Remarkably, it is still within the gift of Secretary of State and Derbyshire MP Patrick McLoughlin to put the brakes on this process.
Although I am an eternal optimist, even I don't have an ounce of hope left that it will happen. He and his predecessors, Justine Greening and Philip Hammond, have dug themselves a deep hole with their bloody-minded determination not to show weakness by changing their view. The irony is that it would actually show incredible strength to finally admit they got it wrong.
The truth is this whole affair has been a shocking aberration and yet another example of why this Government is not fit for purpose. But in just under two-and-a-half years the people of Derby and Derbyshire can give their verdict at the ballot box.