Siemens has been named preferred bidder to supply the 1,200 new train carriages which will almost double peak time capacity on the Thameslink route.

Subject to financial close being reached, Siemens and Cross London Trains – a consortium comprising Siemens Project Ventures and investment
funds Innisfree and 3i Infrastructure – will build, own, finance and maintain the new trains. 3i is part owner of rolling stock leasing company Eversholt Rail while Innisfree is a PPP/PFI specialist.

Siemens and its partners expect several months of further negotiations with the Department for Transport will be required to seal the multi-billion pound contract, which will be the largest order in the commuter and regional market ever awarded to Siemens and the first for the Desiro City – the second generation design of the Desiro platform used by train operators including London Midland and South West Trains.

The DfT says it intends to retain the other bidder – VeloCity – a consortium comprising Bombardier Transportation, Deutsche Bank real estate investment management business RREEF, Serco Holdings, Amber Infrastructure Group and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation Leasing – as the reserve bidder in the event that contracts cannot be successfully finalised..

Included in the Siemens deal are the building and financing of two depots at Hornsey (north London) and Three Bridges (West Sussex) – a construction programme expected to create up to 650 jobs. A further 600 skilled roles for the manufacture of components for the new trains will be created, including up to 300 at a Siemens’ factory in South Tyneside. Around 750 workers will be required to maintain the new trains and operate the depots including jobs in the supply chains.

Siemens says the jobs that will be created have the potential not only to leave a lasting and sustainable skills base in the UK supply chain, but should assist in creating a critical mass to allow such businesses to compete for projects of a similar nature.

But although promising to create up to 2,000 jobs, the choice of Siemens as preferred bidder raises questions about the future of Bombardier’s Litchurch Lane production facility in Derby. This is the last remaining volume train building site in Britain and as current orders are fulfilled the firm has yet to secure a major order that would guarantee future activity on the site.

The new Thameslink trains will enter service from 2015 alongside the existing rolling stock with the full fleet in use from the end of 2018, when up to 24 trains an hour will run through central London.

The new rolling stock will be more energy efficient than the Class 319s they replace and the lighter weight design should result in less wear and tear to railway track, in turn reducing disruption caused by maintenance.

The DfT says the total capital cost of the contract is £6bn.

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