A star-crossed procurement

Paul Snell is managing editor at Supply Management
7 February 2014

7 February 2014 | Paul Snell

Paul SnellMuch like for those commuters who have been trying to get to work in London this week, the route to finally awarding the £1 billion deal for the trains on the new Crossrail line has been a long journey.

The procurement process started more than three years ago in December 2010, and at that stage it was anticipated the contract would have been awarded toward the end of 2013.

The first delay came as the result of an entirely separate procurement exercise. The decision to award the deal for new rolling stock on the Thameslink project to the German firm Siemens - as opposed to Bombardier which had some manufacturing in the UK - made national headlines and created a political storm in July 2011. And a month later in August Crossrail’s procurement process was suspended pending the outcome of a government review.

The outcome of that study led to a focus on making sure Crossrail's chosen partner engaged local and domestic vendors in its supply chain - which was highlighted in the announcement today - and to ensure no repeat of the Thameslink tempest.

In March 2013, there was a further complication. The idea to secure £650 million of private sector investment was abandoned, in favour of a taxpayer-funded plan so as not to delay the procurement process any longer.

And that wasn’t all. In mid-July last year, one of the four bidders for the contract - Siemens - pulled out of the tender process citing capacity concerns.

Yesterday's award brings the lengthy and complex procedure to its conclusion. And positively, the National Audit Office's warning that any further delay in awarding the contract could jeopardise the services and benefits, has not come to pass.

The decision to give the deal to Bombardier will at least avoid a repeat of the Thameslink controversy - provided the announcement survives the 10-day period left open for potential legal challenges, of course. But the company will need to now prove faith in its capability to deliver has not been misplaced.

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