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‘If Siemens can’t manage Thameslink, nor can Bombardier’

Campaigners who want Thameslink rolling stock reserve bidder Bombardier to be handed the contract after the repeated delays by Siemens in achieving financial close need to understand that the same problems would be faced by the Canadian company, the Financial Times has reported.

As was well-established during the transport select committee inquiry into rolling stock procurement, Siemens has a better credit rating than Bombardier, which some think helped the German giant secure the ‘bundled’ manufacturing and finance contract. 

But with banks less willing to lend, a rolling stock procurement consultant interviewed by the Financial Times said Bombardier would not be able to finance the contract in its current form either. They said: “If Siemens’ corporate credit rating can’t do it then I don’t think Bombardier’s will. The Government is in a horrible bind because if Siemens can’t close the deal it would have to reopen the competition to alter the financing package and that would cause a big delay to the programme.”

Any such delays would have a series of knock-on effects, for example on the Northern and Great Western franchises, due to be cascaded refurbished Class 319s when Thameslink gets its own new stock. The delays have already led to Southern needing to procure 130 new carriages from Bombardier because its Class 377/5s sub-leased to First Capital Connect could not be returned on time. 

As reported at this week, Steve Scrimshaw, managing director of Siemens Rail, has said he is “disappointed” that negotiations over financing are taking longer than expected, but that the company’s management “remain confident” that closure will be achieved. 

He added: “Depending on progress over the next month or so, we hope to achieve commercial close by Christmas with financial closure in the new year. We have been forging ahead with the manufacturing planning of our Desiro City train for Thameslink, the second generation commuter train based on the very successful Desiro UK train. We are already well advanced with our plans for the start of vehicle testing at our dedicated test track later this year. 

“Having already invested well over 50 million Euros – at our own risk – in its development, I look forward to the Desiro City train taking pride of place on the UK rail network.” 

DfT minister Simon Burns has confirmed the Government is “assessing options” on what to do if it and Siemens cannot secure financial close. 

Derby MPs and rail unions say awarding the Thameslink contract to Bombardier now would save thousands of jobs and would show that the Government is “putting the national interest first”. 

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email


Henry Law   02/11/2012 at 14:25

Time for a re-think if this falls through. Thameslink was never a great benefit for the long distance routes - passengers can end up sitting for over an hour on trains designed for city centre loading, whilst delays at, say, Bedford could cause trouble hours later on the Brighton line, and a points failure, at, say, Wivelsfield could do the same for passengers on the Midland. The thing needs to be cut back to run within the TfL area and integrated with London Overground. Then a run-on build of Bombardier class 378 will serve nicely.

Timh   02/11/2012 at 15:04

Innovative thinking Henry but I think things have gone too far for that, in terms of rolling stock procurement, bespoke infrastructure improvements, and the franchise specification

Boldfield   06/11/2012 at 14:13

One of the reasons that the cost of rolling stock in UK is so high is due to private financing which is just to get if off the govenment debt. If the govenment financed it either directly (QE) or via bonds the it would save the tax payer and the passenged many millions. If it went to Derby the government would also get a good proportion of the cost back in taxes and help the economy. I bet this was not factored in the the award to Siemans.

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