MPs failed to get transport minister Simon Burns to set a date for signing a contract for Thameslink rolling stock, but his ‘guesstimate’ is early 2013

The Department for Transport does not expect to conclude the much delayed deal for the Siemens-led consortium to supply 1,200 new Thameslink vehicles for several more months. Giving evidence to the commons transport committee on November 12, transport minister Simon Burns said that it would be “unwise” to put a specific timescale on when the £1.4bn contract would be signed. Pressed by MPs, Burns said conclusion of the deal was still “a few months away – my guesstimate is early in the new year”.

He also confirmed to MPs that alternative arrangements are being investigated if preferred bidder Siemens is unable to put the necessary financing arrangements in place to fund the deal. Options other than transferring the contract to reserve bidder Bombardier are being investigated. “We remain confident that financial close can be secured with Siemens, but as you’ll appreciate for a procurement of this size it is normal practice to assess contingency options were it not possible to secure financial close,” Burns said.

When Siemens was announced as preferred bidder in June 2011, the intention was that the deal would be completed so that the first trains could enter service at the start of 2015 with the full complement operational in 2017. However, with targets to close the contract repeatedly missed, the earliest the new trains are expected to be delivered for testing is summer 2015 with all trains deployed in 2018.

The uncertainty means that electrification infrastructure schemes in the North West, due to be completed between December 2014 and 2016, may now need to be operated with diesel trains for a period until existing Thameslink rolling stock is cascaded to the area.

However, DfT domestic group director general Steve Gooding claimed that existing orders for new electric trains followed by a delayed Thameslink procurement would still enable adequate cascades to be arranged

He pointed to the London Midland/TransPennine order for 20 new Desiro units as a specific project which could release electric rolling stock for north west schemes. “Our aim is to make sure the electric trains are there to take advantage of the electrified track as it comes on stream,” he told MPs. “I fear it will be a mix of what is being procured now and what the cascade coming out of that is.”

 

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