17 February 2009 | Jake Kanter
The government's decision to buy a fleet of high speed trains for £7.5 billion has been heavily criticised by MPs.
Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said the procedure was "painfully slow", while Labour backbencher Lindsay Hoyle argued the contract should have been awarded to a British supplier.
Last week, transport secretary Geoff Hoon unveiled Agility Trains - a consortium of Hitachi, John Laing and Barclays - as the preferred bidder for the Super Express trains that will operate on Great Western and East Coast main lines.
"The procurement process for this project has been painfully slow and very expensive, demonstrating that government micro-management is pushing up costs and slowing progress on improving our railways," said Villiers. The Department for Transport (DfT) issued an OJEU notice for the train programme in March 2007.
Hoyle was concerned that awarding the contract to consortium member Hitachi was a missed opportunity to create British jobs. This was despite the DfT's predictions that 12,500 UK manufacturing roles would be created from the project. He called for a focus on the needs of the British economy during purchasing processes.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, agreed. "We need to know why the order was not placed with Bombardier, which has train-building capacity and a skilled workforce in Derby."