BOMBARDIER has won the contract to build 130 vehicles for Southern. The deal worth is £188.8 million, and it's a welcome New Year boost for Derby, where the new trains will be built.
The Department for Transport is contributing £80 million towards the total cost. Southern said there would be a financial competition in the New Year to secure the remaining capital funding required.
Production of the 26 five-car sets will begin during the second half of 2012, and all must be delivered in time for the December 2013 timetable changes.
Originally, the expanded 2013 Southern timetable depended on the addition of 23 four-car Class 377 sets, which are presently sub-leased to First Capital Connect. These units cannot now be returned to Southern in time, because of the continuing delays to the Thameslink rolling stock contract, for which Siemens is currently preferred bidder.
It is widely believed that Siemens won preferred bidder status at least partly because its global credit rating is higher than Bombardier's, which means that Siemens could offer cheaper finance to fund the contract.
There had been fears that the Derby plant, the last factory building trains in Britain, could close as a result of the Thameslink order going to Siemens, and Bombardier has placed the plant under review as well as shedding some 1,400 jobs as various contracts came to an end.
However, the company described the Electrostar order as 'a step in the right direction'.
Bombardier's country representative in the UK Paul Roberts said: "We look forward to having greater clarity on procurement for the CrossRail project and welcome the Transport Select Committee's recommendations that future tenders separate train financing decisions from train design and manufacturing.
"These developments are therefore an encouraging step in the right direction and will be integral elements in considerations as part of Bombardier’s UK review."
The new Southern Electrostars will be known as Class 377/6 units. They will be slightly different to Southern's existing Electrostar fleets, because they will have bodies based on the Class 379s, which entered service with National Express East Anglia earlier this year.
However, they will be sufficiently compatible with the existing fleets to remove any need for the separate maintenance facilities and equipment which would have been required had the 130 vehicles been built by another manufacturer.
Southern managing director Chris Burchell said it was this compatibility which had been one reason for choosing Bombardier.
He explained: "We found that the Bombardier bid could meet our challenging delivery timetable, was affordable and also offered compatibility with our existing fleet. We are delighted that we have found a way forward that will enable us to provide vitally needed extra capacity."