Thameslink contract backlash

July 12, 2011, 6:09 PM GMT+0

Almost three in five British people think that the Government should prioritise British companies over foreign ones when awarding major contracts, our poll has discovered. Just one in five believes that contracts should be decided on the basis of better quality or value, regardless of whether the company concerned is British or foreign.

Our poll also showed the older generation as particularly ardent, with nearly seven in ten of those aged 60 and over saying that British firms should take priority.

  • 59% of British people believe that when the Government awards major contracts it should prioritise British companies, even if a foreign company could offer better quality or value
  • While just 21% think that the Government should always look to get the best value and quality, regardless of whether the company in question is British or foreign
  • 68% of those aged over 60 believe that British companies should be given priority, compared to 41% of 18 to 24 year olds
  • Those based in the North are more likely to say the Government should support British firms, with 63% saying native companies should be prioritised, compared to 50% of Londoners

The poll comes as German firm Siemens was last month named winner of a contract to build new train carriages for Thameslink, winning out over the UK’s last remaining train company, Bombardier. The £1.4 billion Government contract will include the building of 1,200 carriages for a route between Bedford and Brighton.

‘Extremely dissapointed’

Bombardier, which is based in Derby, has said that it is ‘extremely disappointed’ in the outcome of their bid, although Siemens has pointed out that its contract will lead to the creation of 2,000 jobs across the UK, including up to 300 at a factory in Hebburn, South Tyneside. Siemens already employs about 16,000 people in the UK. Canadian owned Bombardier is set to lose more than 1,400 jobs after missing out on the contract.

‘Difficult situation’

In response, Business Secretary Vince Cable has set up a task force to help affected workers retrain or find new jobs, saying: ‘looking forward, I think it is very important that we help Derby [workers] to cope with this very difficult situation’.

Phillip Hickson, Conservative leader of Derby council, disagreed with the move, saying that he felt train building was ‘in the DNA’ of the town and assured inhabitants that he would continue to campaign for a reconsideration of the Thameslink contract. ‘I think there are other, more fundamental, things that need dealing with before we start…sorting out unemployment arrangements,’ he stressed.