From the TUC

Six ways to boost Bombardier

20 Sep 2011, by Guest in Economics

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond looks set to throw trainmaker Bombardier a lifeline with a £120m train order that would preserve hundreds of jobs at the Derby plant

It is certainly disappointing that the DFT awarded the next major train building order for the Thameslink programme to Siemens of Germany, rather than Bombardier of Derby. This follows on to the awarding of the Intercity express 2 programme to Hitachi of Japan. This decision is not only disappointing to the skilled employees working for Bombardier and their subcontractors in Derby and could possibly end train making in the UK. It is also disappointing for passengers. As a regular user of London Midland, Southern, SE & SW trains, I can say with confidence that Bombardier Electrostars are much better to ride in than Siemens Desiro stock.

I fully support the campaign by the TUC, Derby Council, MPs and others to get the Thameslink bid reopened which the coalition government has now agreed they could do, but the Prime Minister has stated in the Commons that this is unlikely. So what else could be done to assist Bombardier until the next big order for the London Crossrail programme?

A number of small projects and orders could be brought forward to supplement existing rolling stock where there are clear problems of overcrowding on the existing network. These could include the following:

In London.

  • The new TfL Overground network taken over from the franchises has been a huge success using Bombardier 378 units. Its 3 coach trains have already been lengthened to 4 coaches. TfL would like to lengthen these trains again to 5 units. This order could be brought forward.
  • The rebuilt Blackfriars station, with its two bay platforms and new South Bank entrance, will be completed in December 2011, creating an opportunity for extra services. Some existing FCC Thameslink services could be taken over by extending  the existing Overground service from West Croydon to Sutton, Wimbledon, Streatham, Tulse Hill and Blackfriars. This would require some additional Bombardier 378 units.

To relieve overcrowding on National network.

  • Southern operates the Ashford to Brighton Marsh Link and the London to Uckfield services using a mixture 2 and 4 coach Bombardier 171 diesel units. These services are regularly over- crowded, but as Southern has no other diesel units they cannot be strengthened.  The existing 10 coach units could be increased to 3 coaches or 4 coaches or a number of additional 171 units could be purchased.
  • The Great Western has the most overcrowded trains in the UK, not only in and around London but in and around Bristol as well.  In fact 7 of the 10 most crowded trains in the UK are Great Western trains with some 3 coach trains running at twice their capacity. The Great Western local trains use a mixture of diesel units, but in particular they use 165 and 166 units. One way to supplement these 3 coach trains would be to transfer the 165/6 from the Great Western run Reading to Basingstoke line and the North Downs line to Redhill. The Reading to Basingstoke line could be transferred to SW Trains using a couple of new Bombardier 172 units and The North Downs line could be transferred to Southern franchise using a new order of 6 Bombardier 172 units. These could also be 4 coach units rather than the existing 3 coach units.
  • South West trains want increase their trains from 8 to 10 coaches. To allow this to happen on Metro services existing 456 units could be transferred from Southern allowing existing 8 coach 455 trains to be lengthened to 10 coaches. New Bombardier 377 stock could be provided to Southern to replace the 456 stock.
  • The existing Southern Croydon to Watford service via the West London Line at present only runs hourly and is regularly overcrowded. This could be increased to half hourly and also lengthened to 8 coaches with some extra Bombardier 377 units.

I am sure others can think of some additional services and ways of resolving overcrowding to the benefit of rail traveller, Bombardier and their UK workforce, UK Manufacturing, skills and training and the people of Derby.

GUEST POST: Charles King is a former GMB national officer and member of TUSDAC (Trade Union Sustainable Development Advisory Committee). He received an MBE for his work in transport, and is currently Chair of the East Surrey Transport Committee.