Irony as Bombardier could yet have first trains on Thameslink
DERBY train-maker Bombardier could be in with a chance of having the first new trains running on the revamped Thameslink route after all.
After the bitter blow of missing out on the £1.4 billion contract to build 1,200 carriages for the route to German firm Siemens, the Litchurch Lane firm could be presented with another opportunity to get its trains on the line first.
Delays to the Siemens deal have meant the Department for Transport urgently needs new trains for Thameslink – and the answer could come in the form of a potential order from Southern Railway.
As previously reported in the Derby Telegraph, the train operator is currently working with the DfT on the possibility of a brand new order for 116 carriages – with the potential for 140 more.
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Bombardier would be expected to bid for the work, which could be worth hundreds of millions of pounds. And if Bombardier wins, the irony would be that these trains could initially end up being used on the revamped Thameslink route, which runs from north to south through central London.
In a statement, the DfT said: "If Southern progresses with the procurement, these 116 new vehicles, and potentially 140 more, could initially be used on the Thameslink routes.
"Once the expected new Thameslink trains are operational these carriages will be moved to the newly electrified routes, which could include the Midland Main Line to Corby and North Transpennine Routes."
Bombardier, which employs 1,600 people at its Litchurch Lane plant, should be well positioned to win the work.
It has previously supplied Southern with hundreds of carriages.
And it is currently making 130 Electrostar carriages for the rail operator, which is an £188 million order that was placed by Southern almost 12 months ago.
The Derby Telegraph reported yesterday that it understood that confirmation of a £60 million extension to that contract was "imminent".
The paper now understands that Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin is expected to confirm this morning that Southern will be ordering the extra 40 Electrostar carriages from Bombardier.
It will be another welcome boost to the Litchurch plant, which has found itself on the wrong end of a number of government decisions in recent years.
When Siemens was named preferred bidder for the Thameslink contract by the DfT last year, Bombardier shed 1,000 temporary workers at Derby and launched a full review of its UK operations.
Earlier this year, it finally decided that it would keep the Derby factory open in order to maintain a UK presence while it bid for the next major government contract – the £1 billion Crossrail deal.
But while the announcements about Southern are positive for Bombardier, hopes of reversing the Government's decision to award the Thameslink deal to German firm Siemens appear to be fading. Yesterday, during a debate in the House of Commons, Transport Minister Simon Burns confirmed that the DfT had finally agreed a price with Siemens to carry out the work.
Derby North MP Chris Williamson, who has been lobbying ministers to reverse the decision and award the work to Bombardier, said: "I'm disappointed that the Government hasn't listened to all the representations."