Thameslink procurement row rumbles on
May 23, 2012
Ongoing frustration at the government decision to choose Siemens over Bombardier as preferred bidder for the Thameslink project is fuelling a continuing challenge from MPs.
Members of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee's report on rolling stock procurement are championing the British train manufacturing industry by calling for greater clarity on why the decision was made.
The committee has published the government's response to its report on Thameslink rolling stock procurement, including its reply to the committee’s recommendation that government clarifies how it intends to use Network Rail's passenger rolling stock route utilisation strategy to ensure a steadier flow of future procurements.
Welcoming the committee’s support for future procurements to have a ‘sharper focus on UK strategic interests’, the government agreed to publish more details about its plans for future rolling stock orders.
Committee chair Louise Ellman said: ‘Following our recommendations, the government is taking steps in this direction, but it remains to be seen how this will affect firms like Bombardier and the long term security of UK supply chains.
‘Our train manufacturing industry needs a steady flow of work opportunities to support employment in the sector, not occasional major orders.
‘If the government decides to contract with Siemens for the Thameslink trains, we would like more information to be published about why their bid was preferred to Bombardier's. This is essential to restore public confidence in the Department for Transport's procurement process and we urge the secretary of state to act.’
A more combative reaction came from Maria Eagle MP, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, who said the government’s response suggested nothing had been learnt from the Thameslink fiasco, which had resulted in a multi-billion pound contract being awarded to a company that would build the trains in Germany.
‘It is no good ministers welcoming the call for “a sharper focus on the UK’s strategic interests” when the government’s own rail strategy hides a worrying new threat to the future of British train manufacturing.
‘Buried in the government’s new rail strategy is a decision to increasingly allow the private train companies to lead on buying rolling stock, with the government procuring trains only on “limited occasions” in future.
‘Ministers will, therefore, simply be unable to apply the new rules they have promised to help secure train manufacturing jobs for British workers.’