The boss of Derby train-maker Bombardier has said its latest contract win will sustain up to 2,500 rail jobs for at least the next five years.
And in the meantime, Richard Hunter, UK managing director at the Litchurch Lane firm, said the company will be aiming to add more deals to its order book that will ensure the factory has an even rosier future going forward.
Its latest deal is to supply 333 electric Aventra carriages to the company that will take over the West Midlands rail franchise this December – West Midlands Trains – which is a consortium made up of Dutch national operator Abellio, the East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui and Co.
At the same time, WMT has ordered 80 diesel carriages from Spanish firm CAF. Part of WMT’s network is diesel and part electric.
According to WMT, it is spending a total of £680 million on new trains – and it is understood that about two-thirds of this is heading Bombardier’s way, which means its part of the deal is worth around £450 million.
Litchurch Lane is currently busy making trains for Crossrail and London Overground – and it in the last 18 months has bagged two £900 million deals to supply trains to the new Greater Anglia and South West rail franchises.
According to Mr Hunter, the WMT order – Bombardier’s fifth big deal since 2014 – provides further job security for his workers.
He said: “These new orders will sustain the workforce until at least the early 2020s, which is great news for us and for Derby. It is also very good news for our supply chain, much of which is based across the East and West Midlands.
Bombardier boss Richard Hunter says the West Midlands Trains deal will help sustain the factory into the 2020s
“What we have to ensure is that ourselves and our supply chain are prepared for the busy times ahead.”
Once again, the train that has secured Bombardier its latest deal is the Aventra – an electric train, which has been designed, developed and now manufactured and tested in Derby.
According to Mr Hunter, the idea for the Aventra came about when Bombardier was enduring one of its most challenging times. It had just lost out on two key contracts – the InterCity Express Programme and Thameslink.
Mr Hunter said: “After we lost out on Thameslink in 2011 we decided we needed a new product that was innovative – a next generation train that could be right up there in terms of performance, reliability and easy maintenance.
The Aventra was designed and developed at Bombardier’s Litchurch Lane site
“The Aventra has proven very popular with our customers. Of course, certain operators require different configurations, such as seat layouts and liveries.
“In the case of West Midlands Trains, this is something we will be discussing with them going forward. It usually takes about a year before we are in a position to start assembly. Once we are in that position the aim is to deliver the trains by 2021.”
In the meantime, Mr Hunter said that Bombardier would not be resting on its laurels – and would be gunning for more work that can keep Litchurch Lane busy throughout the 2020s.
He said: “Our site here is Derby is pretty unique – not just for the UK but for the world. We design, develop, build and test trains all from a single site.
A production line at Bombardier
“We have the capacity here for more orders and we will be looking to win more going forward.”
It is understood that those future deals could include new trains for the Midland Main Line – the main route that connects Derby to London – which is operated by East Midlands Trains.
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In July this year the Department for Transport announced it had pulled the plug on the £1.1 billion project to electrify all of the line.
Instead, new “bi-mode” trains will be used, which can switch from electric to diesel mid-journey.
That means an order should be forthcoming soon for new trains. Don’t be surprised if Bombardier throws its hat into the ring.
Reacting to the firm’s latest contract win, Tony Murphy, national officer at the Unite union, said: “This good news is in no small part down to the skills and tenacity of the workforce who have worked tirelessly to secure a brighter future for Bombardier.
“Since the blow of losing out on the Thameslink contract in 2011 the Bombardier workforce has shown great resolve and determination in turning the fortunes of the Derby site around.
“This hard work cannot be put at risk by continuing government uncertainty surrounding Brexit which is currently leading to businesses putting off investment decisions.
“We need a jobs first Brexit and for government ministers to pursue a ‘built in Britain’ procurement policy as part of an active industrial strategy that supports decent jobs.”
Derby South MP Margaret Beckett said: “This is excellent news for the company and the city.
“It is good news which comes at a difficult time for Bombardier’s aerospace business in Northern Ireland, although I understand that there is now a possible solution that will save jobs at its Belfast plant.
“While the rail and aerospace businesses are two different things they are both part of the same company.
“And I hope that as it continues to win new orders for new trains, it reinforces to Bombardier that Derby is the right place for its rail business.”
Source: Derby Telegraph