Five questions answered on Bombardier’s contract to provide trains for Crossrail

How much is the Bombardier-Crossrail contract worth?

Train and aerospace manufacturer Bombardier has won the contract to manufacture trains for London’s Crossrail project. We answer five questions on the key comission.

How much is the Bombardier-Crossrail contract worth?

The contract is worth a hefty £1bn and requires Bombardier to provide 65 trains for the Crossrail service, set to open in 2018.

Will any new jobs be created by the contract?

Yes. The Department for Transport (DfT) said Bombardier's contract would support 760 manufacturing jobs and 80 apprenticeships at its Derby-based factory. It added that 74 per cent of the amount spent on the contract would stay in the UK economy. A spokesperson for Canada-headquartered Bombardier told the BBC that 340 new jobs would be created in total.

What have business secretary Vince Cable and London mayor Boris Johnson said about the contract?

Cable said the contract would be a good boost to the Midlands. He added: "The government has been working hard with industry to support the UK rail supply chain to maximise growth opportunities through contracts like this."

Johnson said: "With a firm on board to deliver a fleet of 21st century trains and the tunnelling more than halfway complete, we're on track to deliver a truly world-class railway for the capital."

What features will the train carriages have?

The newly built carriages will be 200 metres long and be able to take up to 1,500 passengers. They will also be air-conditioned, with linked, walk-through carriages, and provide live travel information.

What other benefits will come from Crossrail?

As well as the extra jobs at Bombardier, it is estimated that Crossrail, which will travel from Maidenhead and Heathrow Airport to the west of London, to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east, would support 55,000 full-time jobs around the country. The government has also said Crossrail will provide about 10 per cent more capacity to the London train network.

Crossrail workers in the disused Connaught tunnel, near Abbey Wood. Photograph: Getty Images.

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

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The SATs strike: why parents are taking their children out of school to protest against exams

Parents are keeping their children away from school to highlight the dangers of “over testing” young pupils.

My heart is beating fast and I feel sick. I force myself to eat some chocolate because someone said it might help. I take a deep breath and open the door…

The hall is silent except for the occasional cough and the shuffling of chairs. The stench of nervous sweat lingers in the air.

“Turn over your papers, you may begin.”

I look at the clock and I am filled with panic. I feel like I might pass out. I pick up my pen but my palms are so sweaty it is hard to grip it properly. I want to cry. I want to scream, and I really need the toilet.

This was how I felt before every GCSE exam I took. I was 16. This was also how I felt before taking my driving test, aged 22, and my journalism training (NCTJ) exams when I was 24.

Being tested makes most of us feel anxious. After all, we have just one chance to get stuff right. To remember everything we have learned in a short space of time. To recall facts and figures under pressure; to avoid failure.

Even the most academic of adults can find being in an exam situation stressful, so it’s not hard to imagine how a young child about to sit their Year 2 SATs must feel.

Today thousands of parents are keeping their kids off school in protest at these tough new national tests. They are risking fines, prosecution and possible jail time for breach of government rules. By yesterday morning, more than 37,000 people had signed a petition backing the Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign and I was one of them.

I have a daughter in reception class who will be just six years old when she sits her SATs. These little ones are barely out of pull-up pants and now they are expected to take formal exams! What next? Babies taught while they are in the womb? Toddlers sitting spelling tests?

Infants have fragile self-esteem. A blow to their confidence at such an impressionable age can affect them way into adulthood. We need to build them up not tear them down. We need to ensure they enjoy school, not dread it. Anxiety and fear are not conducive to learning. It is like throwing books at their heads as a way of teaching them to read. It will not work. They are not machines. They need to want to learn.

When did we stop treating children like children? Maybe David Cameron would be happier if we just stopped reproducing all together. After all, what use to the economy are these pesky kids with their tiny brains and individual emotional needs? Running around all happy and carefree, selfishly enjoying their childhood without any regard to government statistics or national targets.

Year 2 SATs, along with proposals for a longer school day and calls for baseline reception assessments (thankfully now dropped) are just further proof that the government do not have our children’s best interests at heart. It also shows a distinct lack of common sense. It doesn’t take a PhD in education to comprehend that a child is far more likely to thrive in a calm, supportive and enjoyable environment. Learning should be fun. The value in learning through play seems to be largely underestimated.

The UK already has a far lower school starting age than many other countries, and in my opinion, we are already forcing them into a formal learning environment way too soon.

With mental health illness rates among British children already on the rise, it is about time our kids were put first. The government needs to stop “throwing books at heads” and start listening to teachers and parents about what is best for the children.

Emily-Jane Clark is a freelance journalist, mother-of-two and creator of stolensleep.com, a humorous antithesis to baby advice.