Ministers need to step in to bring forward new rail contracts following the news that the Derby-based train making firm Bombardier has lost out in its bid to build 165 carriages for the East Midlands rail network.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, has expressed shock today (Tuesday 30 July) that Abellio, the Dutch government owned train company which takes over the East Midlands franchise next month, has awarded the contract to rival Hitachi.

Unite said there needs to be government support to highlight the professionalism and world-class train making skills at Bombardier to attract new work to bridge the gap in 2021-2022 which would have been filled by the contract now awarded to Hitachi.

The union pinpointed the ageing rolling stock across the rail network in the north of England as a suitable area for bringing forward new contracts.

Unite national officer for the rail industry Harish Patel said: “Our members at Bombardier are shocked to lose the East Midlands bi mode contract which constituted a total of 165 railway carriages. We are obviously worried about future potential job losses as a result.

“The Abellio contract being awarded to Hitachi as preferred bidder is a big blow for those employed at the Derby site because this work would have secured work to the end of 2022.

“Bombardier had the best price, technical solution and best package overall. The contract that will operate through the East Midlands will have a severe impact not only for the Derby workforce but also in maintaining much-needed engineering skills.

“While the Bombardier site would have designed, manufactured, assembled and tested the carriages, Hitachi will only assemble and test the cars within the UK. The engineering and car body will be completed outside the UK.”

Chair of the joint trade union committee at Bombardier (Derby) Darren Barber said: “Past history has seen peaks and troughs within the rail sector which will only worsen if other competitors build facilities in the UK to be assembly-only plants.

“It is vitally important that the 180 year-old train building tradition is preserved in Derby as a significant boost and lubricant not only to the East Midlands economy, but also for the UK. Derby has been a huge engineering hub for more than a century and this needs to continue so we can maintain and grow our economy.

“We are unsure what the business rationale for Abellio’s decision was and we will be asking the company for a meeting to discuss the reasons.

“Ministers need to step in and bring forward new contracts for trains and carriages that Bombardier can bid for – one area that could enormously benefit from such a move is the well-publicised ageing rolling stock in the north of England.

“A modern rail network is essential if the much-heralded Northern powerhouse is to fully come to fruition.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) awarded Abellio the East Midlands contract for eight years starting in August, after Stagecoach, the previous franchisee, was disqualified from re-bidding after the DfT raised concerns about its pension commitments.