Bombardier: Clegg gives fresh assurances on train maker's future

 
Nick Clegg at the 2011 Liberal Democrat conference Clegg: "We are spending £8bn a year on transport investment and a lot of that on rail"

Nick Clegg tells me he's frustrated, really frustrated.

Normally when a grown man volunteers such information to me, I head for the hills. But the Liberal Democrat leader wanted to share with me his frustration over the controversial Thameslink rail contract.

It was awarded to Siemens of Germany - and not to Derby-based Bombardier, Britain's last remaining train maker. It was a multi-million pound deal to built new trains for the Bedford to Brighton rail service.

Bombardier had high hopes of winning that contract; its failure has already resulted in 2,000 job losses, half the Derby workforce.

Start Quote

I know the issue over Thameslink has been tough and controversial, but all is not lost”

End Quote Nick Clegg MP Deputy Prime Minister

"The Thameslink contract was designed by the last Labour government, and our hands and feet were tied," the Lib Dem leader told me.

"I can totally understand the anguish of the people of Derby and all that it means for Bombardier."

There's been pressure on ministers to reopen the Thameslink contract. The Deputy Prime Minister was clear: that issue is closed.

So expect to hear that much loved phrase of ministers: "the level playing field".

"I've been talking with the Business Secretary Vince Cable and Transport Secretary Philip Hammond to ensure a level playing field for companies like Bombardier in future.

"They've made great investments in the UK and we'll be working closely with them to protect their innovation and design expertise."

'Tragic for Derby'

Nick Clegg was talking to me in Birmingham, where his party has held its annual conference.

There are hints that the coalition government may bring forward spending on big infrastructure projects: roads, railways, bridges.

Bombardier

  • June 2011: Siemens awarded £1.4bn Thameslink contract
  • July 2011: Bombardier announces 1,400 job losses
  • July 2011: 50,000-signature petition supporting Bombardier presented to Parliament

"Do remember there are going to be lots of other rail contracts and I very much hope Bombardier will bid for them," he added.

"We are going to do everything we can to support the economy of Derby. It would be tragic for Derby and the outlying areas if Bombardier pulled out.

"As a government, we are spending £8bn a year on transport investment and a lot of that on rail."

He also told me the Business Secretary is talking to Bombardier "right now".

"I know the issue over Thameslink has been tough and controversial, but all is not lost."

After months of pretty depressing news for Bombardier and its workforce, there may be a chink of light emerging for them from this conference.

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

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 1.

    Clegg, you are a lying toad and you are talking complete rubbish. There is a clause in the contract to stop it and give it to Bombardier but you are not - instead you are just lying to the population to try and fool them. Shame on you, you say you are in government for the people - well show us instead of lying to us in order to support your chums in the tory party at the expense of thousands.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 2.

    PS there won't be a bombardier site left to bid for all the new projects PS Thanks to your support if the tories so why mention all the other contracts because they are going to have to be done by Germany as well - I was a Lib Dem member, my yellow card is on its way back to you in bits. I expect you to at least be truthful but when you can't even do that you are no longer fit to hold office

  • rate this
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    Comment number 3.

    It's easy to blame Clegg, he deserves to be for many things, but not this: unfortunately Bombardier (Derby's) trains aren't as good as they once were and they cannot compete.
    If Derby wants to express its ire on anyone, it should be against those who privatised the rail industry and the companies who took over and ran Derby and the UK's other rolling stock works.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 4.

    "Clegg, you are a lying toad and you are talking complete rubbish. There is a clause in the contract to stop it and give it to Bombardier but you are not.... "

    As wikipedia would note - citation needed. It's easy to say "oh but there is a way" - you need to do better than that and actually show there is a way. Especially if you are then going to show how biased you are in the next sentences

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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