The UK’s last remaining train factory was given a boost yesterday when the German industrial giant Siemens pulled out of the race for a £1bn Crossrail contract.
Considered the favourite to win the contract to build 600 carriages for the railway, the withdrawal of Siemens raises the likelihood that the trains will be built at the Derby plant of Canadian-owned Bombardier.
Japan’s Hitachi and Spain’s CAF are the other bidders left in the process, and the former – which is building a factory in North Durham – has said it would put together the trains in the UK if successful.
Siemens said it was abandoning its bid because it had taken a number of other jobs since making its initial bid. “To pursue another project of this scale could impact our ability to deliver our current customer commitments – something we believe would not be a responsible course of action,” it said.
The withdrawal will come as a relief to the 1,600 employees at Bombardier’s Derby factory, with the company already having lost out to Siemens to a contract to provide trains for the Thameslink rail project.
The Department for Transport has come under attack for its decision to award the Thameslink contract to Siemens, which was confirmed last month, with critics saying the trains should be built in the UK and not Germany.
There has been considerable pressure for the decision not to be repeated with Crossrail. Last month Ken Usher, from the rail union RMT, said that if Bombardier did not win, “the future for Derby looks bleak, because there aren’t any major contracts coming up for a few years. We need that one to keep the business going.”
The RMT general secretary, Bob Crow, told the BBC: “This is basically Siemens running up the white flag and admitting that if the dice aren’t well and truly loaded in their favour, then they aren’t interested.”
“There is now no excuse for the Crossrail fleet not to be built in Britain, guaranteeing the future of train building in the nation that gave the railways to the world.”
Siemens said the decision to pull out of the race was purely “strategic”, adding that the Crossrail bid team “have conducted a fair and diligent process”.
Although the competition on pricing will be less with the number of bidders falling, Crossrail said it remained a “strong field”.
The project, which will cost £15bn, will connect east and west London, and run from Maidenhead in Berkshire to Shenfield in Essex.
The tendering was originally scheduled for late 2013, but in 2011 Crossrail said it would push back the award to 2014 to try to save money. The remaining companies in contention are due to submit their bids next month.
The Government changed its procurement rules after the Thameslink row and now has to consider UK jobs.