17 June 2011

Curtain call for Derby?

News broke recently that the long overdue and delayed £6bn Thameslink Project will receive 1,200 new carriages, after the DfT awarded the contract to the Siemens and XL Trains consortium, who will assemble the units at the Siemens factory in Hebburn, Tyne & Wear. The first trains will enter service in 2015 and they will allow peak-time frequencies through central London to effectively double.

Around 300 of the 2,000 new jobs will be created in Tyne & Wear, as the Consortium will 'build, own, finance and maintain' the trains. Others will be at two maintenance depots, which are likely to be built at Hornsea (Haringey) and Three Bridges (nr Crawley).

It's a good news story, not least because it confirms that the government is willing to put its money where its mouth is and commit to supplying the required number of carriages needed to meet the much-vaunted benefits of Thameslink. But, scratch away the surface and this £1.5bn announcement is not as rosy as it could be.

While 2,000 new jobs should not be scorned, we understand the carriages will only be assembled at the German manufacturing plant in Tyne & Wear; most of the raw materials will not be sourced here. Consequently, fewer people are needed. The DfT could have awarded the £1.5bn contract to Bombardier, who is already *building* trains here in the UK, at a location that many would consider the home of the train manufacture: Derby. Not to be dismissive of those who will play a part in the Thameslink fleet's construction, Litchfield Lane in Derby is the last remaining train construction plant in Britain and employs vast numbers of skilled train builders.

For much of this year Bombardier has been turning out new trains faster than has ever been recorded in its 160-year history, with massive orders for TfL (Underground: 2009 Stock and S-Stock; Overground: Class 378 Electrostars; NXEA: Class 379 Electrostars; and Class 172s for London Midland and Chiltern). On average 100 carriages per month are being produced. Thameslink's 1,200 carriages would take Bombardier a little over a year to build.

We British taxpayers delegate to government how best to spend our taxes, though this is a decision that reaps very little benefit to the country as a whole. Once the bulk of TfL's orders have been completed, production in Derby will wind down as nothing on the same scale is forthcoming - not now the Thameslink order has been awarded to the Siemens/XL Trains consortium.

In the short term, we concede that Siemens must have made the better offer, ensuring taxpayers' hard-earned cash goes further, but in the long term if more skilled train builders are made redundant at Derby (c3,000 currently employed at Litchfield Lane) than are employed afresh in Hebburn (300 planned), the consequences could be far-reaching and costly.


Anonymous said...

Just to clarify - you got some facts the wrong way round - barring acts of god, no assembly by Siemens will take place in the UK - the trains will be built at Krefeld Germany. Siemens' plant in the north east will probably supply components for the construction of the trains.

You can read more about Siemens Krefeld here http://www.siemens.com/press/pool/de/events/industry/mobility/2010-04-velaro-d/standort_siemens_mobility_krefeld_en.pdf

I don't know much about the Hebburn plant but understand that it is an electrical engineering site.

As regards Bombardier, there is the option (I have no idea how likely this is) of using the Derby site to manufacture vehicles for customers outside the UK to fill shortfalls.

In the long term Bombardier Transportation is in the running for the Crossrail order of trains - and has already been producing trains for London Underground - so Bombardier should have a good expectation of securing that contract.. However that is years away.. Unless Bombardier transfers production to the UK the plant looks likely to close, or be mothballed. There are options - eg the former ABB/BREL plant in York was used to produce both freight wagons, and trams whilst it suffered an order drought in the post privatisation period. (It eventually closed)

Anonymous said...

Or being cynical, is the government getting a nice big back hander for this??!!!! Times are hard dont forget

LEYTR said...

With respect to the first comment, we don't believe we've got anything the wrong way round. Perhaps we over-estimated the UK's involvement in the production of the Thameslink trains. 300 jobs is a small percentage of the overall total to be created so the North East's role was always going to be relatively minor in the scheme of things - even more so than we predicted!

Fred said...

The consortium will 'build, own, finance and maintain', but none of that will be done in Hebburn. Siemens are quite clear that the trains will be built in Krefeld, with some unspecified components supplied from T&W.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous here again - I was just nitpicking, not claiming there entire post was the wrong way round..

The bit I was on about was "we understand the carriages will only be assembled at the German manufacturing plant in Tyne & Wear" - no - no - this is the bit.

Unless you know something I don't about Siemens starting train assembly in the UK ?

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

You have got the address wrong, Bombardier is in Litchurch Lane, Derby. I should know i've worked there for 34 years. The future is not looking very good, thanks to both governments. I'm expecting the worst outcome.

Anonymous said...

We were led to believe that who ever got the Thameslink order will also get Crossrail, because both are of a similar specification

Anonymous said...

Does this government department not realise there is more at stake than accountants saving a quick bob for a fast profit. Has someone got any brains or forward thinking? The knock on from this on Derby is going to help decimate this city. It will also contribute to the loss of the already depleted manufacturing base in this country. What about the the other E.U. countries who give contracts locally ie Germany, France and Italy.
There are many manufacturing opportunties in this country as several cities are planning metro's. For goodness sake when will people consider Britain and British jobs?