Give Derby £1.4 billion train-building contracts
Derby Evening Telegraph: 09-August-2008
A FORMER Transport Minister has called on the Government to give a £1.4bn train-building contract to Bombardier.
John Spellar (pictured), who was Minister for Transport from 2001 to 2003, said the Government must live up to Gordon Brown's slogan – British jobs for British workers – by awarding the contract for new Thameslink trains to the Litchurch Lane-based firm.
The Labour MP has warned that industry in Derby and across the Midlands would be hit if the order went to one of the other bidders – all of whom are based outside the UK.
And Bombardier chairman Colin Walton said that if the company secured the contract, it could mean hundreds of new jobs for the company and its supply chain, as well as a huge cash boost for the region.
The company, which has been building trains for more than 150 years, has a team of 100 employees preparing the ground for the bid, which will be submitted next year.
The other companies invited to tender for the contract – to build 1,100 carriages for the line between Bedford and Brighton – are French firm Alstom Transport, Siemens of Germany and the Japanese-owned Hitachi Europe group.
Mr Spellar said: "This huge order doesn't just mean jobs in Derby but right across the Midlands through the supply chain.
"The Department for Transport needs to take seriously the Prime Minister's slogan – British jobs for British workers.
"If a company wants to sell trains to the German railways, the rolling stock has to be built in Germany, and if a firm wants to sell trains to the French railways, the trains have to be built in France.
"We should be looking after British industry in the same way."
It was at last September, at the Labour Party's annual conference, that Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised that the Government would strive to create "British jobs for British workers".
But yesterday, Mr Brown's office said it could not comment on anything to do with the Thameslink contract while the tendering process was under way.
Bombardier chairman Mr Walton said he thought British companies bidding for contracts in Britain were not in such a strong position as, for example, German companies bidding for contracts in Germany.
"European regulations are interpreted and enforced differently in different countries," he said.
"Mr Brown is the Prime Minister and if he says the way forward is British jobs for British workers, then we welcome that, though we haven't seen much evidence of it yet."
Mr Walton has no doubts about what the benefits to the region would be if the contract was won.
Economic studies carried out by the company suggest that for every £1 put into Bombardier, £2 would be put into the regional economy.
"In Bombardier and its supply chain, I would be surprised if it did not mean hundreds of new jobs."
Failure to secure the Thameslink contract, Mr Walton said, would not affect job security at the firm but it could mean job losses in the supply chain.
Tony Forster is managing director of Litchurch Lane, Derby, engineering firm Tecforce, which has received a lot of business from Bombardier. "A large contract like this for Bombardier would mean security for a lot of smaller firms into the next decade," he said.
Bombardier is also hoping to win two other big contracts.
The first is to provide 2,000 carriages as part of the Inter-City Express Programme and the other is to build 600 carriages for the London Underground's Piccadilly Line.