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£1bn Crossrail deal 'great news'


Crossrail workers inspecting the first completed section of Crossrail tunnel.

Crossrail workers inspecting the first completed section of Crossrail tunnel.

Crossrail workers inspecting the first completed section of Crossrail tunnel.

UK manufacturing has received a huge boost with news that trains for the Crossrail scheme will be built in the Midlands.

A £1 billion contract will see Bombardier of Canada building 65 trains for London's Crossrail project at its plant in Derby, safeguarding hundreds of jobs.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the announcement was "great news for Bombardier and Derby" while Business Secretary Vince Cable said it was "a real vote of confidence in British manufacturing".

Three years ago Bombardier lost out to Siemens of Germany on a £1.6 billion contract for trains for the Thameslink project.

The Siemens victory came amid much controversy and the German company had also been in the running for the Crossrail contract but dropped out last year, leaving Bombardier to face Japanese firm Hitachi and CAF of Spain.

The deal, announced by the Department for Transport and Transport for London, will support 760 UK manufacturing jobs and 80 apprenticeships.

It also involves the construction of a maintenance depot at Old Oak Common in north-west London which will create 244 jobs and 16 apprenticeships. When fully operational it will support 80 jobs to maintain the new fleet of trains..

Each Crossrail train will be 200 metres long and able to carry up to 1,500 passengers. Key features include air conditioning and inter-connecting walk-through carriages. On-train passenger information systems will deliver real-time travel information to allow passengers to plan their onward journeys.

First mooted in the 1990s but then scrapped on cost grounds, only to be revived in the last decade, Crossrail will boost London's rail capacity by 10%

It will run from as far west as Maidenhead in Berkshire, connecting Heathrow, and Abbey Wood in south London, and going as far east as Shenfield in Essex.

At peak times, there will be up to 24 trains an hour between Paddington in west London and Whitechapel in the City of London.

TfL will introduce the new trains from May 2017, with the fleet progressively introduced to the existing rail network well in advance of services commencing through Crossrail's central section in December 2018.

Bombardier managing director Francis Paonessa said t he company had spent £20 million developing the Aventra train which will be built for the Crossrail route and which will be painted purple and black.

He went on: "We are absolutely delighted with the news, which is a real endorsement of the hard work the team has put in. We have been working on the design for the past year.

"The train has wider gangways, is much lighter and more energy efficient."

London mayor Boris Johnson said the trains would "revolutionise rail travel in London, and deliver jobs and economic growth in their birthplace in Derby and across the UK".

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the contract was "great news for British manufacturing and for Derbyshire" while Bob Crow, leader of the RMT union, said it was " a fantastic and deserved result" for Bombardier.

Julia Long, national officer for the Unite union said: "This is great news for the workforce at Bombardier and for Derby, after the disastrous handling of the Thameslink contract."

Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh said: "Following the Thameslink train fiasco which led to a £1.6 billion contract leaving the UK and putting thousands of jobs at risk, Labour called on the Government to award future contracts to companies who would build trains in the UK.

"Labour wants to see trains built in Britain. Today's decision will safeguard the future of the Bombardier factory at Derby and support British jobs and apprenticeships."

Workers at Bombardier described their relief at hearing the announcement this morning.

Mark Fletcher, 41, a planning specialist who has worked at Bombardier for 15 years, said it was fantastic news and "testament" to the hard work people had put in.

Times had been hard since Bombardier lost out on the Thameslink contract, but staff got on with the job, he said.

"After the previous announcement I think people dusted themselves down really, really well.

"I think it shows what we've achieved over the last two years since that announcement, we've really progressed. We're probably the most efficient Bombardier site in Europe by far so it's testament to what people have done here - d usted themselves down, got on with the work and hard work repays, and that's what's happened today with the announcement with Crossrail."

He added: "Bearing in mind we're the last UK-based train manufacturer, 125 years coming up, so it's a big, big announcement; a very, very good year to do it in."

Rick Betteridge, a 55-year-old team leader, said he had worked for the rail manufacturer for more than 30 years in two spells - the first for 21 years and the second for 12.

Describing how people felt learning about the Crosslink contract, he said: "Obviously very happy. It secures not just my future but a lot of the guys who work here. So it's really good news."

Everybody was "buoyed" by the announcement, he said, and added that the future looked bright.

"I think the mood of the company will be so much happier, people will be looking towards the future."

Production manager Nerdeep Mann, 42, who is in his seventh year with Bombardier, said: "Absolutely fantastic news for us.

"We came in this morning expecting some news, when we heard this morning everyone was ecstatic. Really, really good news."

Hitachi Rail Europe, which has its headquarters in London, said its proposal was to be built at the firm's £82 million factory in Newton Aycliffe, in County Durham, which will be building Class 800 series trains for the Great Western and East Coast routes starting next year, employing 730 skilled staff.

Hitachi Rail Europe chief executive Alistair Dormer said: "We are disappointed to have lost out in this bid but this will not stop us making great trains for the British and European market from our factory at Newton Aycliffe."