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Saturday 9 July 2011

Telegraphing The Express Rail Deception

There has been more employment of the anti-EU spin machine following the awarding of the Thameslink contract to German owned Siemens, rather than Canadian owned Bombardier (the latter having a production plant at Derby). As the argument on build cost had been lost, the focus shifted to how the bids were to be financed.

The Maily Telegraph became fixated by the two companies’ Standard and Poors credit ratings, and the revelation that Siemens’ is A+, while Bombardier’s is a lowly BB+. This was then translated into an assertion that Siemens would be able to finance the deal more cheaply. Two days later, the Express re-ran the story, as a front page EU bashing exercise.

Problem is, this angle only stands up if the train builder is the one underwriting the lease cost of the fleet. And all the underwriting in the UK is down to the Department for Transport (DfT). Moreover, both companies were bidding as part of a consortium, each of which included finance houses. There should have been little to choose in terms of finance cost.

And this does not address the unease that train operators have expressed recently over Bombardier: delivery dates have been missed, fleet reliability is comparing poorly (for instance, Southern and SouthEastern fleets, built by Bombardier, are doing less well than those of South West Trains, built by Siemens), and some potential buyers have gone elsewhere due to Bombardier’s inflexible approach.

On top of that, industry sources have indicated that DfT, as I pointed out previously, went back to Bombardier – several times – to inform them of Siemens’ lower offer. This was clearly an effort to get Derby the contract, but Bombardier management did not show any interest in revising their bid.

This comes on top of Zelo Street learning that Bombardier has apparently lost interest in train refurbishment work. With continuing pressure to keep costs down, life extension work on existing fleets will provide plenty of scope for plants like Derby to keep running, but Bombardier, who only recently did a heavy refurbishment of London Underground’s Piccadilly Line trains (very well) has left the arena.

This last is uncannily similar to the same firm’s loss of interest in repair work at its Crewe site. And it is consistent with the thought that Bombardier has decided to wring as much as it can from its UK assets and then leave the country for good.

But this does not match the EU bashing agenda of the Maily Telegraph and the Desmond press, so is not even investigated, much less reported.

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