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19 December 2011 | Adam Leach
MPs on the Transport Committee have asked
the National Audit Office (NAO) to review the decision to
award the contract to build 1,200 train carriages for the Thameslink railway
The select committee's report,
published on Friday, said MPs were unable to judge whether the decision to award
the contract to Siemens instead of Bombardier was correct based on the bid criteria, as certain
information is subject to commercial confidentiality rules. In order to ensure
fairness and transparency, the report said, the NAO should carry out a review
into the decision. The NAO is set to respond formally to the request.
Thameslink, the train line running between
Brighton and Bedford through London, is currently undergoing a £6 billion
overhaul. The decision in July to award the deal for new carriages to the
German firm, rather than Canadian company Bombardier, which operates the last
train manufacturing plant in the UK, prompted
"We could not evaluate whether the
decision to choose Siemens was arrived at correctly because all of the bids
were and remain confidential,” said Louise Ellman, Labour/Co-operative MP and chairwoman
of the Committee. “We believe that in the public interest an independent
review must evaluate whether this massive contract was awarded correctly on the
basis of the criteria in the original invitation to tender."
Bombardier has already announced it is to
cut more than 1,200 jobs as a result of tough business conditions and the loss
of the contract is expected to result in further cuts.
While the opposition has called for the
procurement to be re-opened, the government says it is bound by the tender
criteria set out by the previous administration.
Last month, Lord Sugar told
members of the House of Lords that had he been in charge of procurement, he would have fought “tooth and nail” to
keep the contract in the UK.