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Thameslink blamed for 1,400 Bombardier redundancies

Arguments broke out today over whether the loss of a major Thameslink rolling stock contract was to blame for the loss of 1,429 jobs at manufacturer Bombardier’s Derby plant.

Bombardier lost out to Siemens last month as the preferred bidder for a contract to provide a new fleet of trains comprising 1,200 carriages on the major rail project Thameslink.

Bombardier announced today that it plans to cut 446 permanent jobs and 983 temporary contract staff because the workload going forward was not sufficient to keep the facility operating at current levels.

The Thameslink contract would have secured workload at the Derby site, said Bombardier UK passengers division president Francis Paonessa.

Bombardier Transportation UK chairman Colin Walton said: “The loss of the Thameslink contract has forced us to conduct a UK-wide review of our operations.”

Rail union TSSA said the government was “foolish” for awarding “such a vital contract” to an overseas manufacturer.

“They owe it to British manufacturing in general, and the people of Derby in particular, to reverse their decision to award this huge contract to Siemens of Germany,” said TSSA leader Gerry Doherty.

Rail workers’ union RMT general secretary Bob Crow called the award of the contract to Siemens a “stitch up”.

“The government are colluding with the European Union in a policy of industrial vandalism that would wipe out train building in the nation that gave the railways to the world,” he said.

But secretary of state for transport Philip Hammond told the Today Programme that the loss of Thameslink was not the sole factor in the job cuts, and that Bombardier has other prospects for work.

“Even before the Thameslink decision they were going to have to make 1,200 people redundant because of the successful conclusion of existing orders,” he said.

“Bombardier is already a shortlisted bidder for the Crossrail contract. It has won contracts with London Underground and will be extremely well placed for the next big London Underground contract coming up.”

Bombardier’s Derby plant is now completing orders for metro cars for London Underground’s sub-surface lines and Victoria Line and Turbostar diesel multiple units for London Midland.

All but the sub-surface lines contract will be complete by the end of September this year.

Hammond said the Thameslink contract was awarded on the basis of the best price available. “The only options available to us were to go ahead and award the contract to the bidder who made [the] highest value for money bid on the basis of the criteria that Labour set out when they launched this procurement in 2008, or to cancel the project altogether,” he said.

“We can’t cancel the Thameslink project; we’ve already invested billions of pounds in the platforms, the track improvements, the other major infrastructure changes.”

He said steps could be taken in future to favour the UK supply chain.

“It is possible to structure the contracts such that, even within the constraints of the European Procurement Directive, there are much greater chances of the domestic supply chain succeeding,” he said.

“[Business secretary] Vince Cable and I have written to the prime minister suggesting that we use the next stage of the Growth Review that the government is undertaking to do just that.”

On the future of Bombardier’s Derby plant, he said: “The Business Department are actively engaged with the company and with the city council in Derby trying to do everything we can to keep the skills base in Derby.

Siemens said last month that the Thameslink contract would allow it to create up to 2,000 new jobs in its UK operations and across the UK supply chain in train component manufacturing, with a particular focus in the North East, and in the construction of the depots and subsequent maintenance of the new fleet of trains.

Bombardier will now initiate a 90 day statutory consultation process on its planned job cuts. The Derby plant currently employs 3,000 staff and supports an estimated 12,000 employees in its supply chain. 

Readers' comments (3)

  • It is extremely inlikely that a contract like this in France would be awarded to an outside firm if the French manufacturer were to have to make personnel redundant. UK Limited is rapidly withdrawing from too many industries for its people to maintain a high standard of living. Once control leaves this country we are at the mercy of market forces as perceived by others. We also lose the highly valuable R & D activities, pushing us further into a low skill economy.

    Engineering and technology are the drivers for prosperity and yet they are ingored at our peril. Subservience should not be the role for us.

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  • The McNulty report recommended economies of scale in train procurement and in the size of franchises. If Bombardier had supplied Electrostars for Thameslink, and Southern and Thameslink had been combined as a franchise, both recomendations would have been met. I wonder if the possibility of this making the Bombardier bid competitive was considered?

    Richard Tyler

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  • Hammond at least had the decency to say that we need level playing field interpretations of EU regulations and procedures. This is a very belated acknowlement of something known by the rank and file of the Engineering Professions for many years - that the UK's politicians and Civil Servants have introduced UK interpretations of rules and procedures which are far more onreous, expensive and restrictive, and far more detrimental to the nation's interests than that introduced and practiced by other EU countries!

    We need more perfidious Albion and less naive belief that the rest of Europe will always follow the rules in both the spirit and the letter!

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