Crossrail competition for trains contract delayed
The competition to supply trains for the Crossrail project is being delayed until 2012, raising hopes that the deal could go to a UK-based firm.
The scheme will now not go to tender until a procurement review, aimed at ensuring UK firms do not lose out to European rivals, has taken place.
Ministers hope to prevent a repeat of the Thameslink row, when Derby-based Bombardier lost a contract to Siemens.
Crossrail is a new £16bn route linking Berkshire and Essex to central London.
The scheme, which will run through the heart of the capital, intended to issue tender documents for the 60 new trains in late 2011.
However, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has now said it will take place in early 2012.
Four companies have been shortlisted for the contract - Bombardier, Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles SA (CAF), Hitachi Rail Europe Limited and Siemens.
In March, France's Alstom was also among the companies invited to tender for rolling stock and depot facilities. However, Crossrail revealed that the firm behind the TGV high-speed trains later withdrew from the shortlist.
In June this year, the contract to build 1,200 carriages for the Thameslink route went to Siemens rather than to Canadian company Bombardier.
The estimated £1.4bn deal had been regarded as crucial for the Derby site - the UK's last remaining train factory. The company now plans to cut half of the 3,000-strong workforce at its factory in the city.
The transport secretary later ruled out a review of the decision, but said he would look at procurement guidelines.
Move 'will save money'
The Department for Transport said it was examining whether the UK was making best use of the application of EU procurement rules.
BBC political correspondent Adam Fleming says: "At the time [of the Thameslink decision] the transport secretary said the rules were set up by the Labour government and his hands were tied in that case.
"But what he was going to do was look at whether the guidelines for how these competitions work could be changed so UK companies were competing on an equal footing with Continental competitors."
Labour and the RMT union have both said the Crossrail decision raises questions over the Thameslink contract.
"If ministers are now saying it's possible to review the Crossrail contract, they must explain why they have cost British jobs by refusing to do the same for the new Thameslink trains as Labour has repeatedly demanded," said Maria Eagle, shadow transport secretary.
Bob Crow, the RMT general secretary, also criticised the move: "This is an admission by the government that they got the Thameslink contract wrong, and as well as learning lessons for the future they should now do the decent thing and award that work to Bombardier in Derby before it is too late."
Crossrail said the procurement review would not delay the project - due to open in 2018 - but instead would result in a shorter time between ordering the trains and bringing them into service. It also said it would save money.
"Crossrail has identified that significant operational cost savings, running into tens of millions, can be realised for taxpayers by introducing Crossrail rolling stock to the rail network over a shorter period of time," said Andy Mitchell, Crossrail programme director.
"Continuing with the original procurement programme would have delivered the new train fleet earlier than was necessary."
Bombardier welcomed the delay.
"The rescheduling will give time to ensure that the invitation to tender will allow the results of the government's review of procurement to be included," it said in a statement.