Siemens delay 'will cause rail fare rises and overcrowding'
A UNION has claimed that rail-users will face years of fare increases and "chronic" overcrowding on the UK network because of delays to a major contract, on which Derby train-maker Bombardier missed out.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union believes that a three-year delay to replace the Thameslink rail fleet will have a serious knock-on effect in terms of freeing up trains for the rest of the network.
The union claims that the shortage of new rolling stock will see the network struggle to cope with future rises in passenger numbers.
It also fears that train operators could exploit the situation by running smaller trains, cancelling services and charging passengers more to travel on trains.
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The £1.4 billion Thameslink contract, for 1,200 new carriages, has been beset by delays.
In June 2011, German manufacturer Siemens was controversially named as preferred bidder for the work, ahead of Derby-based Bombardier.
As a result of missing out on the deal, Bombardier was forced to shed 1,000 temporary jobs at its Litchurch Lane plant.
Eighteen months later, Siemens is yet to start building the trains – to be manufactured in Germany.
Just before Christmas, the Government announced that it had reached a commercial agreement with Siemens, which means they have agreed on a price. But the two parties are yet to reach "financial close" and still have not agreed on how the new carriages will be financed.
Trains that currently run on the existing Thameslink route that are to be replaced with the new Siemens trains would be cascaded to newly electrified routes.
But the RMT claims the longer deal for new rolling stock remains unsigned, the worse it will be for the rest of the network in the future.
As an example, it says the Government faces the prospect of the electrification project linking Preston, Manchester and Liverpool running with diesel trains when it comes on stream over the next three years.
The RMT has now renewed calls for the Thameslink decision to be overturned and the work be awarded to Bombardier.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "We now know the real cost of the Government's Thameslink fiasco, thousands of jobs threatened in the East Midlands and massive delays and hold-ups to key electrification projects and the release and cascading of desperately needed rolling stock throughout the network.
"Those delays will leave passengers paying through the nose for years to come to travel on shabby, overcrowded trains while the train operators are exploiting the crisis and are laughing all the way to the bank.
"This madness has got to stop and Bombardier should be given the essential fleet replacement work rather than continuing this debacle into yet another year."
The DfT has previously said it is confident of reaching financial agreement with Siemens in the early part of this year. And Transport Minister Simon Burns has told Derby North MP Chris Williamson that he believes there is "sufficient" cascaded rolling stock to meet the needs of the electrification programme.
Mr Crow also said that he hoped another major government contract, the £1 billion Crossrail deal, would not suffer the same delays.
Bombardier, which is currently building trains for Southern Railway at Litchurch Lane, is focused on winning Crossrail.
It is one of four companies bidding for the work, which includes Siemens. In February last year, the Department for Transport issued an Invitation to Negotiate to all four firms. It is expected to award the contract in early 2014.
Last week, during a visit to the Derby Telegraph's offices, Prime Minister David Cameron reaffirmed that the Crossrail tendering process would look at the benefits each bid could bring to the UK's train-building supply chain – a move which campaigners believe could help Bombardier.