Theresa Villiers 'dashed Bombardier train deal hopes'


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The Independent Online

A government minister was today accused of dashing hopes of saving thousands of jobs after refusing to change a controversial decision to award a lucrative train-building contract to a German firm.

Bombardier has warned that the loss of the £1.4 billion contract to build trains for the Thameslink route will cost 1,400 jobs at its Derby factory, sparking a union campaign to reverse the decision.

Transport minister Theresa Villiers raised hopes among workers when she visited the plant today - but she said there was "no option" to award the work to Bombardier.

Unite national officer Julia Long said: "The workers at Derby thought they might get some good news when they heard Theresa Villiers was going to visit. Instead she raised their hopes and then dashed them in the run-up to Christmas.

"It was extremely frustrating, as she gave no guarantees of new work, she only covered the same old ground the Government has been going over for months. The workers here are very disappointed."

Ken Usher from the Rail, Maritime and Transport union said after meeting the minister: "We are bitterly disappointed to say the least. She has let us all down - but our campaign will continue."

Bombardier was given some good news today when it was awarded a three-year contract worth more than £15 million by ScotRail, covering operational support and supplies for its Class 170 Turbostar fleet of 177 vehicles, although it will not lead to any new jobs.

Des McKeon, commercial director at Bombardier Transportation, said: "This is a significant win for Bombardier as it maintains our involvement in the maintenance of ScotRail's Turbostar fleet and builds on the diverse portfolio of contracts Bombardier has with FirstGroup, one of our key strategic customers."

Ms Villiers said: "I very much welcomed the participation of Bombardier management and staff, the unions, supply chain representatives, local councillors and MPs in my visit to Derby today.

"I recognise how controversial the Thameslink decision was but we are legally bound by the criteria set by the previous government. There is no option open to us which would enable us to ignore the result of the competition and hand the contract to Bombardier.

"Going forward, however, there are other projects which could potentially help secure jobs in Derby. A review of public procurement is also under way, examining whether the UK is making best use of the application of the EU rules, while continuing to ensure that all bids are judged on a fair and level playing field. The conclusions of that review will be taken into account in the procurement of the new Crossrail rolling stock."

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "It's a scandal that Theresa Villiers has travelled all the way to Derby to do nothing other than confirm the death sentence hanging over UK train building and the thousands of jobs at Bombardier and in the supply chain.

"The Thameslink fleet contract still isn't signed off and is bogged down in the turmoil of the global markets and today would have been a golden opportunity to end that shambles and kick-start production at the Derby plant which is geared up and ready to go."