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Virgin rebirth has left train firm chuffed to bits

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: December 12, 2012

By ROB SMYTH

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WORKERS at a rail depot near Burton have been handed an early Christmas present after a multi-million pound new contract guaranteed the site’s ‘short term’ future.

The 360 staff at Bombardier’s Central Rivers maintenance depot, in Barton under Needwood, were celebrating after learning that bosses had struck a deal with Virgin Trains to continue maintaining its Super Voyager fleet that operates on the UK’s West Coast main line at the factory.

The deal extends an existing agreement between Bombardier and Virgin to March 2016.

However, it is not yet known if the work will result in more jobs at the factory.

Paul Roberts, chief country representative of Bombardier Transportation UK, said: “Winning this contract allows us to continue our strong relationship with Virgin, which has been in place since 1998. It demonstrates Virgin’s trust in Bombardier to continue delivering an excellent and cost-effective service.”

Bombardier said it would allow the company to continue its long link up with Virgin.

The contract is valued at approximately £106 million.

Tony Collins, chief executive of Virgin Trains, said: “We are delighted to extend our service agreement with Bombardier Transportation, building on the strong relationship we have developed over the last 13 years.

“The Voyagers are a key part of the West Coast Fleet and we look forward to working with Bombardier to continue to deliver a reliable and punctual service to all of our customers.”

Central Rivers carries out refuelling, cleaning and maintenance for operators Cross Country and Virgin.

The site has recently been embroiled in a pay dispute which nearly saw workers strike.

Unite members at the depot (accepted a deal which will see Bombardier pay a cash sum of £730 to all its depot workers, in lieu of a percentage pay increase after 10 months of wrangling.

The union has called for further talks with Bombardier bosses in a bid to improve relations between staff and management, with a pay review for next year due to begin soon.

The dispute came to a head after Bombardier refused to provide ‘essential information’ to justify its below inflation 2.5 per cent pay offer.

The new deal has come about after the Department for Transport decided to ask Virgin to continue operating services on the West Coast route.

It follows the cancellation of the competition to run the rail franchise, which was won by FirstGroup, after fundamental flaws were discovered by the Department for Transport (DFT) in the bidding process.

The competition will be started again and in the meantime, Virgin will continue to operate the line.

Bombardier missed out on the £1.4 billion deal for the Thameslink project, in London, to Siemens in 2011.

The DFT was criticised after selecting the German firm as its preferred bidder to build 1,200 Thameslink carriages.

The government said the Siemens deal offered better value for taxpayers despite strong protests from the company.

The firm has had to lay off about 1,000 contractors and 200 permanent staff.

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