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Siemens on track to take Crossrail contract to Germany

German group that took contract to build Thameslink trains is on Crossrail shortlist despite preference for UK bid

German group Siemens will build the Crossrail train fleet in its Düsseldorf factory if it wins the £1bn contract, despite the government’s stated preference for a UK-based bidder.

Siemens is one of the frontrunners for the UK’s next major train manufacturing contract due to its financial heft and its selection as preferred bidder for the £1.4bn Thameslink contract.

However, the furore over the Thameslink decision, which has threatened the future of Britain’s last remaining train factory at Bombardier’s Derby facility, has forced ministers to pledge that the next train supply contest will put British contenders on an “equal footing” with their European counterparts.

Speaking ahead of a House of Commons hearing on Thameslink on 7 September, Steve Scrimshaw, head of Siemens’ UK rolling stock division, said the main production base for the 60 Crossrail trains will be at the group’s Krefeld plant near Düsseldorf, with some components made in the UK.

“We have no plans, as we currently stand, to establish a production facility in the UK for making trains for Crossrail,” he said. Siemens believes it has enough capacity in the Krefeld factory where the Thameslink carriages – to build the 60 Crossrail trains as well will be made.

Scrimshaw added that Siemens, one of four bidders for the Crossrail contract, was not concerned that the government’s pledge will increase the chances of a UK-based company winning the deal. “It is not anything that we are frightened about. Ultimately it has to be in line with European Union law and I am sure the government will not break European law,” he said. EU rules bar states from showing explicit domestic bias in procurement decisions.

France’s Alstom pulled out of the Crossrail process last week, citing the incompatibility of its range of products, but Siemens remains a frontrunner because the Thameslink fleet is expected to be very similar to the Crossrail rolling stock. “We are going to stay in the Crossrail process,” said Scrimshaw.

The other bidders on the Crossrail shortlist are Canadian group Bombardier, Spain’s CAF and Hitachi of Japan.

Last week Crossrail, which is building a new rail route linking Heathrow to Canary Wharf, said it would delay awarding the contract until 2014, allowing the government to factor in the conclusions of its procurement review.

The decision to select Siemens as preferred bidder for Thameslink has enraged local politicians and trade unions, after Bombardier announced it would cut more than 1,400 jobs. The Unite union said it fears the Derby plant, which employs 3,000 people, will close once construction on a London Underground train contract has finished in 2014.

The Thameslink decision triggered a political row over the government’s ability to defend British manufacturing when it has described the sector as crucial to the economic recovery. However, Scrimshaw said: “We won the bid fairly and squarely in accordance with the evaluation criteria. We have offered UK employment to up to 2,000 people, to add to the 16,000 Siemens already employs in the UK.”

Siemens has a long-established presence in the UK, which dates back to 1843 when William Siemens, then a 19-year-old engineer, arrived in Britain from Hamburg.

However, critics of the Thameslink deal argue that the jobs created by Siemens will not contribute to a permanent train manufacturing base that could ultimately replace Derby. Nearly three-quarters of the jobs linked to the Thameslink deal will be in construction of the train depots, train maintenance and in the local supply chain. A further 300 will be based at the Siemens electrical components facility in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds