MP blasts civil service 'incompetence' as part of a 'perfect storm' hitting rail firm
A DERBY MP claims there is a "perfect storm of incompetence and inexperience" at the Department for Transport, which has led to train-maker Bombardier missing out on key contracts.
Derby North MP Chris Williamson launched the broadside after comments made by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin in an exclusive interview with the Derby Telegraph last week.
Mr McLoughlin said the Litchurch Lane firm needed to "compete" more to win major rolling stock contracts.
But Mr Williamson, who has been campaigning to persuade the Government to overturn its decision to award the £1.4 billion Thameslink deal to German firm Siemens, instead of Bombardier, believes the problem lies in Mr McLoughlin's own department.
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Last week, a report into rail franchises by Richard Brown, chief executive of Eurostar, called on the DfT to "strengthen its capability".
His report was prompted by the West Coast Main Line debacle, which saw the Secretary of State scrap an agreement to award the franchise to First Group, instead of Virgin, after "significant errors" were discovered in the way the bids were assessed – a move set to cost the taxpayer at least £55 million.
But Mr Williamson believes that Mr Brown's report should also call into question the overall capability of the DfT – including its ability to handle competitions for large rolling stock contracts.
He said: "Key decisions are being made by civil servants within the DfT who are a law unto themselves.
"What you have at the department is a perfect storm of incompetence and inexperience, which has been highlighted by their inability to act on decisions like Thameslink and other large rolling stock contracts.
"I believe that these important decisions should be taken out of the DfT's hands."
Mr Williamson said that an example of the department's "poor" decision-making was the eVoyager project.
Bombardier has been working with the DfT to compile a detailed business case for converting a fleet of 34 diesel-powered CrossCountry trains to hybrid diesel/electric.
But last week, Mr McLoughlin admitted to the Derby Telegraph that the Government's massive investment in the electrification of the rail network, had "changed" the case for eVoyager.
EVoyager is seen as vital to Bombardier because it would provide work for its design engineers.
Mr Williamson said: "Just over 12 months ago you had one Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, saying she was keen to push ahead with the eVoyager project.
"Months later we had the announcement about the massive investment in electrification and another Transport Secretary saying he will be looking into the implications on eVoyager."
Last night the DfT said: "It is totally wrong to compare our consideration of the e-Voyager upgrade of diesel trains with the very specific problems that affected the competition to work out who would run the West Coast Main Line franchise. They have absolutely nothing to do with one another.
"We have not yet made an announcement because we are calculating carefully the strength of the e-Voyager business case following last year's £500m decision to electrify the entire Midland Main Line."