Within the DfT there is likely to be relief today at the relatively muted coverage of yesterday’s decision to give a multi-billion pound train contract – for Thameslink – to Siemens. Yesterday’s decision raises questions about the future of Bombardier’s factory in Derby, which was the other rival bidder. Unite, which is the union representing many of the workers at the plant (which employs 3,000) calls the decision a “hammer blow“.
Bear in mind that David Cameron took his regional cabinet to Derby in March in an attempt to emphasise his commitment to manufacturing; Nick Clegg visited Rolls-Royce and George Osborne posed at the Toyota factory. Philip Hammond’s visit to Bombardier was not publicised given the commercial sensitivities.
It is striking that the government has chosen to give the major contract to a company which will build them in Germany, although there will be 300 new jobs in Tyneside making components for the trains. Ministers have talked about 2,000 new jobs, although many of these are construction jobs on new depots. The DfT has justified the decision on the basis of “best value for money for taxpayers.”
What is striking is how Bombardier has kept its head down beyond saying it was “disappointed” and that it would seek a debriefing from the DfT. But there are suggestions that the Canadian company will now review its position in the UK. My understanding is that the Derby factory has significant orders – for instance for London subsurface routes and 30 trains for East Anglia – for the next year or two. (There is a feeling in Whitehall that the company should be competing for more contracts in continental Europe). Beyond that there is a big question mark.