WE SHOULD by now be seeing some evidence that European directives on public procurement are generating a positive effect, n’est-ce pas? Yet rolling stock procurement practice looks depressingly familiar. In Britain, nearly all orders in the last few months have gone to the local plants of GEC Alsthom and Adtranz, not least because they are familiar with the draconian requirements of Railtrack’s safety approvals process. Doubtless there are firms elsewhere who consider this a barrier to entry to the British market.

Across the Channel, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Take for example an order for 210 double-deck coaches for Belgian National Railways. Reported prices per car are BFr34m from Siemens-SGP of Austria, BFr40m from Breda in Italy, BFr42m from GEC Alsthom and BFr44m from local builder BN, part of the Bombardier group. Note, however, that GEC Alsthom and BN have an agreement that if either receives the order, they will collaborate on it. Of the eight criteria used to evaluate the bids, capital cost, life cycle cost and design are the most important. Industry insiders suggest BN will get the order - it apparently scores well on life cycle cost and design - but we would remind readers that last year BN warned (RG 10.97 p656) that ’the Brugge plant’s occupancy would be greatly affected’ if it failed to secure the contract. ANF and BN are now under common management, and BN announced that 106 people would have to leave the enterprise. Remaining staff in Brugge and Manage would be 1024.

We are now told that BN will not be assembling the fleet of 90 Class 77 diesel locos that SNCB ordered from Siemens with ABC engines. Assembly will be handled by CMI in Seraing, Wallonia. Back in Flanders, BN has secured half the man-hours for putting together SNCB’s fleet of 80 Class 41 DMUs ordered from GEC Alsthom Transporte. Meanwhile, we understand that SNCB’s 60 Class 13 main line electric locos are likely to be assembled by GEC Alsthom in Belfort, which not long ago put its staff on short-time working. Word has it also that the French tender for construction of around 300 low-cost freight locos - with an option for as many again (p189) - is set to go to Belfort too.

Just how does the European procurement directive fit in with all this, we wonder? And while on the subject of directives, we note that railways directive 91/440 has to this day not been properly implemented by the French. o