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Labour Urges Review of Thameslink Trains Contract

Siemens Logo & TrainPrime Minister David Cameron should be really feeling the pressure about the controversial decision to give the £3 billion Thameslink train contract to German firm Siemens instead of Bombardier. This comes as the Labour Party has called for a full review on how the matter was decided, warning that the decision to send the work outside Britain could affect as many as 20,000 British jobs.

Last week, transport secretary Philip Hammond and business secretary Vince Cable wrote to Cameron to express their concerns that firms in the UK are losing to outside rivals in significant acquisitions. They said that other European Union countries are perceived to manage their public acquisition processes with more focus on domestic supply than the UK has. A review should investigate what more they can do to improve the environment for businesses competing for contracts from the government. However, they also noted that EU regulations require, transparent, non-discriminatory and equal treatment of bidders.

Now Shadow business secretary John Denham and shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle have said in a letter to the prime minister that awarding the Thameslink trains contract to Siemens instead of the Derby Bombardier factory dealt a big blow to the British manufacturer. This means now the only company left in the UK that designs, manufactures, maintains and exports parts and trains is in peril. Losing such a company would impact both the workforce and families in Derby.

Denham and Eagle continued that the decision could have severe consequences for thousands of jobs, including the 6,000 people that work for the company in the UK. Bombardier is reviewing its operations due to the decision, while a delegation of council and business leaders from Derby lobbied its transport division executives in Berlin. At a time when the recovery of the economy is still weak, a threat to so many jobs can’t be allowed unless all solutions have been investigated. Plus, they added, it could endanger the manufacturer’s ability to compete for train contracts for the High Speed 2 and Crossrail projects. A review needs to be conducted, and it has to take the effect on the economy into account.

Meanwhile, union officials have also expressed their concern and say that other EU states protect their domestic interests despite the rules. Unite the Union said that Britain should follow Germany’s example, as Siemens has been awarded a £5.4 billion high speed train contract for Deutsche Bahn.

Rail minister Theresa Villiers said after Siemens was awarded the contract last month that the deal will create 2,000 jobs in the supply chain for the rail industry, while it will also provide Thameslink passengers with greener, more reliable and more modern trains. Siemens was seen as the best value for money for taxpayers, she added. However, the problem is that only the components will be made in Britain.

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