'Rail contract tendering process will have to consider UK supply chains'
TRAIN-MAKER Bombardier's bid for a £1 billion carriage building contract was yesterday given a boost by the Prime Minister.
In 2011, Bombardier discovered that German firm Siemens had beaten it to the £1.4 billion Thameslink contract, leading to its shedding 1,000 temporary workers.
Siemens is also bidding for the latest Crossrail carriage-building deal.
But Mr Cameron yesterday renewed the Government's vow that the Department for Transport would look at the benefits each bid could bring to the UK's train-building supply chain – a move campaigners believe could help Bombardier's cause.
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Former transport secretary Justine Greening had previously highlighted that whoever won Crossrail would be required to have a manufacturing presence in the UK and would need to provide opportunities for apprentices and supply-chain firms.
Yesterday, Mr Cameron said: "Part of the contract is that you have to set out the effect on the UK supply chain. That is something that came out of the lessons learned from the previous contract."
The Prime Minister added that "of course" there was a strategic advantage to Bombardier maintaining its presence in the UK.
He pointed to the firm's securing the contract for Electrostar carriages with Southern Railway, now worth £248 million, as a sign of a brighter future.
The firm has vowed to stay in Derby until 2014 while it bids for Crossrail.
Mr Cameron said: "I have looked at their (Bombardier's) recent profits. They are a profitable long-standing business here in the UK.
"I sought out the chief executive of Bombardier last time I was at the Davos conference to specifically talk to him about their commitment to the UK.
"He assured me they were very committed to the UK and I'm committed to helping them be a successful business, just as I'm committed to helping Rolls-Royce, Toyota and other Derbyshire businesses."
Mark Young, regional co-ordinating officer for the union Unite, is among those battling for the decision on Thameslink to be reversed and for Bombardier to have a fair chance with Crossrail.
He said: "At least it gives us some hope that the tendering process for Crossrail will be fair.
"If it's fairer, then clearly Bombardier will have a chance."
Derby North MP Chris Williamson also said it was a "welcome step" but that he feared the tendering process was too similar to that for Thameslink.
He said: "They alluded to the supply chain before but it's not been as clear-cut as the Prime Minister now appears to have made it.
"In the end I'm still concerned that it will come down to who has the best credit rating.
"Siemens could end up winning for exactly the same reason as with Thameslink."
He said it should also look at the "social impact" which the bids would have.
No-one at Bombardier was available to comment.