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Average circulation for the period 1/1/2010 – 31/1/2010 is 8,665 per issue which is the largest audited circulation of any bi-monthly UK rail magazine as of 11/1/2010

he death of British manufac- turing is surely exaggerated – not that it is any great comfort to the people in Derby losing their jobs, or losing hope of securing a job, in the wake of the Thameslink rolling stock decision.


There are perfectly sensible ques- tions to ask about the economic analysis that led to this decision, and to what extent it took into ac- count the obvious benefits to the British taxpayer of having the Bombardier Derby plant working at capacity – as opposed to British workers being laid off, costing the country tax revenue and potentially more in benefits, re-training and business confidence.

However, some of the commentary since then has surely been over- blown. Hundreds of railway jobs are still being created despite the order going to a German company, and thousands more temporary construction jobs too. Siemens is hardly an unknown quantity – as the company stresses, it has had a British presence for nearly 170 years, and employs 16,000 people here.

It is a common refrain that ‘we don’t make things any more’ or that the only real wealth is the wealth earned from products, rather than services. But there are still 2.6 million British people involved in manufacturing, who contribute 11% of this country’s GDP – more than financial services, that common bugbear of many of those most ag- grieved at the loss of our manufac- turing base.

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Some have even begun to suggest the narrative building up around the Thameslink contract – that Britain should become more like other European countries who do more to get round pesky competi- tion laws to award contracts to their own ‘national champions’ – may be flawed.

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The Financial Times, for instance, suggests that other EU countries are becoming more like Britain – pointing to Eurostar’s decision to go with Siemens, SNCF’s choice of Siemens for freight locomotives

recently, and Spain’s Renfe also go- ing with Siemens-built high-speed trains.

Michael Clausecker, secretary-gen- eral of Unife, said there has been a “gradual opening of the market” recently, backing up this viewpoint.

But to the outside observer, the examples quoted hardly show the opening up of the market: instead, they suggest an increasing domi- nance of German manufacturing, and Siemens in particular, over the British and French. There are coun- ter-examples, there always are, but the trend is there.

If Siemens’s Thameslink experience gives it a better shot at the HS2 and Crossrail rolling stock orders, and Bombardier is much less able to compete, as many predict, the scales will only become ever more unbalanced.

The RMT talks a good game with its threats of legal action – and makes some sensible points, as mentioned above – but considering the charge against the DfT is an overly-pre- scriptive emphasis on procurement rules at the expense of broader eco- nomic strategy and long-term Brit- ish taxpayer value, it seems unlikely the officials have actually ignored the rules or left themselves open to this sort of challenge.

So the emphasis must be on dealing with the world as it is now, not as we’d rather it be. For businesses, it must be on winning supplier work, smaller contracts, and preparing the ground for the next big con- tracts. For the Government, it is to re-evaluate procurement policy to give a more sensible and strate- gic result. That won’t always mean a British firm winning every deal – that would be absurd. But these decisions have ramifications, and – despite strict EU competition rules – those ramifications matter and can end up undermining what ini- tially seems a value-for-money deal.

British manufacturing does not quite depend on it; but a lot of jobs do.

Adam Hewitt Editor

rail technology magazine Jun/Jul 11 | 3

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