Pressure grows on PM over Bombardier's contract loss

Bombardier plant Bombardier of Derby lost out on the £1.4bn government contract which went to Siemens

It's not every day you get a call direct from Downing Street.

The boss of Derby-based Bombardier, Colin Walton, was preparing to pack his bags to join the Prime Minister on a trade mission to South Africa.

The high point for Bombardier was to be a photo opportunity with its boss and the PM to celebrate new rail carriages on the Gauteng line between Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Built by Bombardier in Derby, the carriages were assembled in South Africa.

Bombardier's future

The trade mission also offered the chance for some informal lobbying over Bombardier's loss of a multi-million Department for Transport contract to build new carriages for the UK's Thameslink.

The £1.4bn government contract instead went to Siemens of Germany because, according to ministers, it was better value for money.

That's been highly controversial. Bombardier has already laid off 1,400 workers and has warned about the future of its Derby production base.

I now understand that Colin Walton's call from Downing Street was to inform him that he wouldn't be needed in South Africa after all.

The PM's itinerary was being cut short. The Gauteng rail visit was off. No photo op, no informal chat.

Controversial contract

Conspiracy theorists watching the Bombardier story develop will make much of this.

Mid Derbyshire MP Pauline Latham Mid Derbyshire MP Pauline Latham has voiced concerns over Bombardier's job losses

The reality is that the prime minister is heading home from South Africa early because of the continuing phone hacking row.

The Commons is to hold an extra sitting on Wednesday, the day after parliament was due to rise for its summer recess.

That now gives Pauline Latham, the Mid Derbyshire Tory, her chance to see David Cameron when he returns.

She's leading a delegation of local MPs to persuade the PM to revisit the awarding of the original Thameslink contract to Siemens of Germany.

Opportunity to rebid?

So far the Prime Minister has insisted his hands are tied on this controversial contract because of the procurement rules drawn up by the last government.

Start Quote

We want to find how the government can help Bombardier with future contracts ”

End Quote Pauline Latham MP

But according to leaked documents seen by the Daily Mirror, the Department for Transport included a clause which CAN allow it to reconsider the awarding of the original contract.

The Department for Transport says the clause allows for minor changes, not for Bombardier to have a second opportunity to rebid. But that doesn't satisfy Pauline Latham.

"I really think the Prime Minister needs to be aware of the impact on Derby and Derbyshire should Bombardier close. We want to find how the government can help Bombardier with future contracts so that this important manufacturer maintains train making in the UK," she told me.

The House of Commons Transport Committee is to investigate the Thameslink contract and the whole issue of procurement of government rail contracts.

Its hearings won't start until parliament returns after the summer break in September.

That seems an awful distance away for a controversy - like the phone hacking row - that appears to have a life and momentum of its own.

John Hess, Political editor, East Midlands Article written by John Hess John Hess Political editor, East Midlands

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  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Highly controversial at the time, bu a few years ago the US military re-considered a contract that had been awarded to an Airbus led consortium to build a new generation of air-to-air refueling tanker aircraft for the US air force. The republicans (as a result of intense lobbying from boeing) managed to get the original contract torn up and boeing won the new tender. Why can't the tories do this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Beats me how anyone can support Westminster.

    Riddled with corruption and happy to put thousands of skilled British workers onto the dole queue.
    I bet the government didn't factor in the "cost" of mass redundancies into their equation when they awarded this contract.

    It's time to get away from Westminster, for good.

    Roll on the Independence vote, it can't come soon enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    So not only are all the EU required windmills built in Germany but now to aid the demise of this country the Germans have been given the train contract, no doubt at the instigation of the EU, which is just another case of the Germans continuing to dismantle British industry to ruin the British economy.
    With the present state of the finances I would have thought that keeping the trains in house.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    I have read in "The Engineer" magazine, that the ECC contact on a rail quotation was lost due to the British application not factoring in the "Social Benefits" in the British Tender. If this is the case on this lost opportunity, is it not those who failed to factor this in might bring to the community? It was not the lowest quote which was awarded… more a lack of social values.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    While i do feel sorry for the people who have lost their jobs, i think you you all need to realise that it isn't the governments fault that bombardier bid for the contract wasn't good enough. The managers and employees that put the bid together did not do a good enough job. This is the private sector if you are too expensive or your quality is too low you don't get the job! its a fact of business!


Comments 5 of 34



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