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Posts Tagged ‘technology

Seats, not track

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HS2 is in no way a substitute for efficient operations management on the existing railway. In Standing Room Workshop, I suggested that crowding on Milton Keynes/Northampton commuter services from Euston was largely a result of rolling stock shortage. This seems to be borne out by today’s announcement that

London Midland and First TransPennine Express have placed orders with Siemens for new Desiro electrical multiple units.

The new trains will delivered between the end of 2013 and the middle of 2014.

Ten class 350/3 electrical multiple units will be used by London Midland to strengthen existing commuter services into London and along the West Coast Mainline.

First TransPennine Express will introduce a further ten class 350/4 EMUs onto services on the West Coast Main Line linking Manchester Airport to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

It’s unfortunate that yet more of these uninspiring, overweight, 20th century, German-built, trains are having to be hastily ordered, seemingly because of London Midland ineptitude in forward planning. There really needs to be a move to 21st century rolling stock designs, which could support national objectives for recyclability, low energy consumption, and rebalancing the domestic economy.

Written by beleben

February 29, 2012 at 3:08 pm

A railway technical group

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In railway equipment procurement in Great Britain, there are big potential savings to be realised by moving towards a systems integration approach, where individual contracts are smaller. The ideal systems integrator would be a (resurrected) railway technical centre.

One of the outcomes of the privatisation of British Rail was the closure of the Railway Technical Centre (RTC), which left Britain bereft of a national capability in railway technology. A restored RTC could also facilitate the university sector contributing expertise into the industry, in fields such as operations management, passenger usability, and accessibility.

Written by beleben

January 4, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Reshaping rolling stock procurement, part three

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Having taken evidence on the Thameslink (trains) Programme, the House of Commons transport committee has now published its report containing conclusions and recommendations both for the UK rolling stock market

1. Although it may not be feasible or desirable to smooth out completely peaks and troughs in procurement there is scope for the DfT to ensure that there is a steadier flow of opportunities to UK-based manufacturers and the supply chain. (Paragraph 15)

2. We recommend that the Government clarify how it intends to use Network Rail’s passenger rolling stock RUS in ensuring that there is a steadier flow of procurements in future as well as clearer information to industry about the work which the DfT expects to initiate via operating firms or generate itself. We also recommend that the Government clarify whether the medium-term procurement plans mentioned in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s autumn statement will include a plan for rolling stock. In the meantime, we would encourage the Government to assist the UK train building sector in finding opportunities for work before the next major train procurement projects are completed. (Paragraph 16)

and for the Thameslink process itself.

3. We recommend that the Government explain how the measures announced in the Chancellor’s autumn statement to improve procurement practices will achieve a more strategic approach to large-scale procurement and publish an implementation timetable. (Paragraph 23)

4. There would now appear to be few defenders of the previous Government’s decision to exclude socio-economic criteria from the Thameslink procurement. We note that it would not have been possible for the terms of the contract to have been amended, following the change of Government in May 2010, without starting the procurement afresh with a new invitation to tender. Looking ahead, we fully support the Government’s intention to have a “sharper focus on the UK’s strategic interest” in major public procurements. We hope that this new approach to procurement does not come too late for the Bombardier plant in Derby. (Paragraph 24)

5. It is hard to escape the conclusion that Siemens’ A+ credit rating made a significant contribution to its success in winning the Thameslink procurement. Omitting credit ratings from the evaluation criteria for future rolling stock procurements, beginning with Crossrail, is a sensible step. We have a wider concern, however, that bundling train manufacture and financing together in procurement exercises will skew the market towards larger multinational firms, possibly at the expense of excellence in train design and domestic manufacturing. We recommend that the Government work with the railway industry to establish how train manufacturers can create finance partnerships which offer good value to the taxpayer whilst promoting long-term best value. (Paragraph 29)

6. We would expect the DfT to take a robust attitude to any further allegations of corruption involving Siemens, or any other firm it contracts with, and not to hold back from excluding firms from procurement exercises where there is sound evidence of corruption. (Paragraph 33)


7. We think that it would be in the public interest for the procurement process to be independently reviewed and we have written to the Comptroller and Auditor General to ask him to undertake this work and to report to Parliament before summer 2012 (Paragraph 38)

8. If the Government proceeds to sign a contract with Siemens we recommend that it publish the reasons for favouring Siemens over Bombardier and the difference in the cost of the two bids. (Paragraph 39)

I don’t think these recommendations are going to come close to solving the shortcomings of rolling stock procurement, but perhaps they are the best that can be expected. Politicians such as Ed Miliband (who spoke of Bombardier “being sold down the river by this government”) showed little to no interest when factories such as Metro-Cammell were shuttered, or when huge orders were handed to Hitachi and Siemens, etc.

It’s not clear how closely the size of Bombardier’s Derby workforce is related to loss of the Thameslink contract, how ‘British’ its trains are, or even how ‘British’ they could be. Because huge parts of the Derby rolling stock works were razed after its privatisation, Bombardier has long been reliant on factories in Germany and Belgium to do a lot of its manufacturing.

Written by beleben

December 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

6 appeal

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Apart from unleashing a cost explosion in the industry, the privatisation of British Rail also led to a parallel collapse in domestic rail engineering capability. By the end of this process, there was just one train-building facility in existence, a (former British Rail) plant in Derby that ended up as part of Bombardier, under the leadership of its Belgian unit, BN.

The coalition government, established in May 2010, announced a commitment to ‘rebalancing the economy’, but what this means in practice, is anyone’s guess. One way of supporting a rebalanced economy would be to support railway engineering design and manufacture within Great Britain. This could also lead to improvements in rolling stock procurement, which has gone badly wrong in recent years. To give just a few examples

  • the Hitachi Super Express trains (Intercity Express Programme) would have a fair claim to being most expensive trains ever built anywhere in the world
  • the Siemens Desiro multiple units, bought for the former Southern Region, use 50% more energy than the vehicles they replaced
  • Bombardier Voyager trainsets, with noisy underfloor diesel engines, have been employed on long distance journeys under electrified lines.

Cost-effective and scalable capacity expansion demands the procurement of a new versatile loco-hauled carriage for longer distance services, with the weaknesses of existing vehicles designed-out. In conjunction with remanufacture of the best Mark 3 carriages, a ‘Mark 6’ carriage could form the basis of the intercity rolling stock fleet for the Midland Main Line, Chiltern Main Line, East Coast Main Line (InterCity 125 replacement), and Great Western lines.