The construction of a mass rapid transportation system linking CKS International Airport and Taipei City suffered another setback yesterday, as bidding for the project was aborted after only one company put in a tender for the project's mechanical and electrical systems.
"Japanese Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd was the only bidder, so we will invite public bidding for the system again in accordance with the Government Procurement Act (政府採購法)," Pang Jar-hua (龐家驊), deputy director-general of the Bureau of High Speed Rail, said after opening the tender at 10:30am yesterday.
By law, a government project requires at least three qualified bidders, or the bid must be reopened.
Pang denied the lukewarm response to the tender was connected to safety concerns raised by Montreal-based Bombardier Inc, which said last week that it would not bid for the project as planned because the current request for proposal (RFP) has created concerns about passenger safety and system efficiency.
"Of all the companies interested in the project, Bombardier was the only one that said the design was unsafe," Pang said.
In addition to Kawasaki and Bombardier, Pang said Mitsubishi Corp, Siemens AG and Paris-based Alstom SA had shown interest in the NT$26 billion (US$800 million) contract for the mechanical and electrical systems -- which includes train carriages, power supply, traffic lights, train-control systems, communication systems, central-control systems, platform equipment, maintenance equipment, track systems and plant construction.
Pang said that Bombardier had previously tried to tweak the bid in its favor by suggesting several changes to the RFP that required patented products and technology owned by Bombardier.
Bombardier did not respond directly to Pang's statement, but Kathryn Nickerson, Bombardier's director of communications told the Taipei Times last week that the technical specification should be opened up to permit all parties to bid with the most appropriate technology in terms of safety and operational performance.
Although Mitsubishi is not qualified according to the terms stipulated in the RFP, Pang said he does not know why Siemens and Alstom did not submit tenders yesterday. He said the bureau will continue to communicate with potential bidders and resolve any questions they may have about the project.
Siemens, which said it would join the bid on Tuesday but changed its mind overnight, refused to comment yesterday.
The bureau expects the project to be completed by the end of 2009, and to start service in 2010.
The failure of the bid yesterday would only delay the project by one month at the most, he said.
Pang's comments may not be convincing, however, given the project's history.
The construction of the rail-link system has been put off before, as two private companies, Evertransit International Co (長生開發) and BES Engineering Corp (中華工程) abandoned the original build-operate-transfer (BOT) project at the end of 2002 and April 2003, respectively, due to financial problems and technical difficulties.
The government then announced that it was taking charge of the project in June 2003.
The 51.5km system will stretch westward from the Taipei Railway Station to the Chungli Train Station in Taoyuan County, with 19 stations along the way. It will include an airport express service between Taipei and CKS at 110kph, making the journey in just 35 minutes.