Tees mayor backs calls for London Underground contract review

Tees mayor Ben Houchen has backed calls for Transport for London to re-think its decision to send a large part of a major contract overseas, snubbing a North-East firm.

Sedgefield’s Labour MP Phil Wilson has led calls for London mayor Sadiq Khan to review the decision to rebuff a joint bit by Hitachi and Bombardier.

The £1.5 billion contract was instead awarded to Siemans – but it was later revealed 94 of the trains will be built in Vienna, Austria, because the firm’s new factory in Goole won’t be fully operational until 2023.

Wilson’s calls for a review have been backed by other Tees MPs – including Anna Turley and Alex Cunningham – as well as by the Conservative Tees mayor Houchen.

And so far almost 1,500 people have signed a change.org petition backing the campaign.

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Houchen told Tees Business: “This is a kick in the teeth for Hitachi. So many local companies in the supply chain rely on Hitachi, and I’m hugely disappointed the Mayor of London has selected an Austrian firm over a ready-made factory in the North-East.

“Local people are rightly fed up seeing huge contracts being awarded to foreign companies.

“Once we leave the European Union, the government and bodies like Transport for London need to completely re-think the rules around public procurement.

“Free from stringent Brussels rules, it is critical that British companies and British workers come first.

“I’ll be meeting Transport Secretary next week, and again the week after, and will ensure this is on the top of my list.

“In the meantime, I’m in close contact with Hitachi and have offered them my help to ensure they’re successful in their bids to secure the huge HS2 contract, and the contract to manufacture the new Tyne & Wear Metro rolling stock.”

In a letter to London mayor Khan, Wilson wrote: “I am deeply disappointed to hear that the Goole factory will be unable to fulfil the full contract when there is a fully operational train-building facility in my constituency which has the labour force, the expertise and the supply chain to deliver the order alongside Bombardier.

“As far as Siemens’ commitment to the UK is concerned. it seems to me that the company has pulled the wool over Transport for London’s eyes.

“Siemens have committed to a new factory in Goole, which they cannot construct in time to deliver on their promise of manufacturing the Piccadilly Line fleet in the UK.

“I am deeply concerned about how the contract could be awarded on this basis since it could undermine the existing train-manufacturing industry in the UK.

“Together Hitachi and Bombardier were prepared to bid jointly for the contract to secure the future of train-manufacturing jobs in Britain – Transport for London has undermined their commitment to UK manufacturing.”

A Hitachi spokesperson said: “Failings with London Underground’s procurement, which have been challenged in the court by three different manufacturers, mean that Londoners will be paying a higher price for an inferior tube train.

“The train we put forward was to be built in Britain. We believe it offered a more advanced design and better value for money, and would have provided a greater boost to the economy in London and the rest of the UK.

“We continue to pursue our claim for damages against London Underground in the court.”

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “The Mayor was not involved in the Deep Tube procurement process, and TfL officials had to follow a stringent set of criteria around deliverability, technical expertise and value for money.

“TfL’s procurement practices are regulated by EU legislation which strictly prevents all UK public bodies from directly favouring UK manufacturers, or taking the location of manufacturing facilities into account when awarding the contract.”

Hitachi, which opened its flagship factory on Aycliffe Business Park in 2015, remains in the running for a multi-million pound contract to build trains for the Tyne and Wear Metro, as well as a joint £2.75bn bid with Bombardier to make trains for HS2.

 

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