Trains get go-ahead head

THE government yesterday confirmed the £6bn Thameslink project and a plan to order hundreds of new train carriages to ease overcrowding on the railways, but said some schemes would face more delays.

Ministers also failed to announce the builders of the new rolling stock and deferred a decision about replacing the UK’s ageing Intercity 125 high-speed trains.

Transport secretary Philip Hammond said the government was planning to buy 2,100 carriages by May 2019 as part of an £8bn package of new rail schemes.

Hammond committed ministers to funding the £6bn Bedford to Brighton north-south Thameslink project in its entirety, but there was dismay that the scheme would be completed two years late – in 2018. He also announced a £600m electrification by 2016 of the Great Western line from London to Oxford, but delayed a decision on electrifying the rest of the line to Wales until the new year.

Train builders Bombardier and Siemens, who are bidding to supply more than 1,000 trains for Thameslink, are likely to welcome confirmation of the project, which it was feared may have been cut, but they are still none the wiser about the winning bidder.

The delay to a decision on the Intercity Express Programme (IEP) – the project to replace the Intercity 125s, some of which are 40 years old, is also likely to cause concern. The government is reviewing the £7.5bn IEP scheme to reduce its complexity and cost.

Japanese firm Hitachi is preferred bidder on the project while Bombardier, which employs about 3,000 people at the UK’s last train factory in Derby, is reserve bidder.

A spokesman for the Derby & Derbyshire Rail Forum, which represents Bombardier and other companies, said the announcement was positive for train builders.