Fri, Jan 14, 2000 - Page 1 News List

European group
sues THSRC over `bullet train' switch

LAWSUIT FILED Angry at losing out to Japan,Eurotrain is seeking an injunction blocking further Shinkansen negotiations


Furious at being sidetracked by Japan's Shinkansen in a race to build Taiwan's NT$440 billion "bullet train," Eurotrain is pressing the courts to get its bid back on track.

The action, announced yesterday, prompted denials from the government that the decision by Taiwan's high-speed railway company might have been made in the interests of political expediency.

The Franco-German-Anglo consortium said yesterday it had begun suing Taiwan High-Speed Rail Corp (THSRC, 台灣高鐵), challenging its decision to dump Eurotrain in favor of Shinkansen and seeking an injunction from the Taipei court blocking further Shinkansen negotiations.

Eurotrain spokesman Hua Way-phai said THSRC gave Eurotrain priority negotiating rights in a 1997 contract, and that this obliged the consortium to award it the coveted contract if its price was considered reasonable.

Eurotrain asked the Taipei District Court to disallow THSRC's dramatic Dec. 28 decision, in which the company switched its preference to Shinkansen after apparently finding the Japanese bid superior in price as well as in technology and maintenance specifications.

``We have asked the district court to temporarily freeze all ongoing negotiations between THSRC and the Shinkansen group,'' the Eurotrain spokesman said.

Siemens AG chairman Heinrich von Pierer, whose firm makes the Eurotrain locomotives, was en route yesterday to Taiwan to lobby President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) to support Eurotrain's bid. He is scheduled to meet with both Lee and Premier Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) today.

However, Siew dismissed the notion yesterday that the government would involve itself in any negotiations between the European consortium and THSRC.

"This is a BOT [build-operate-transfer] scheme and is totally under the control of the [THSRC] consortium. At no stage in the decision-making process have they asked for opinions from the government,'' Siew said.

"Even if the president of Siemens pays his respects to me, I will tell him just what I have already said,'' Siew said.

THSRC said in December the new Shinkansen deal was ``much more mature'' than the 1997 pact with Eurotrain and that final contracts could be signed as early as this month.

Edward Lin (林天送), the company's spokesperson, said yesterday that any "inappropriate pressure" would not be appreciated and that negotiations with Shinkansen would not be affected by the lawsuit.

At the heart of the matter seems to be whether THSRC actually signed any kind of official contract with the Eurotrain consortium. Local media quoted unnamed sources within the Taiwanese company yesterday as saying it had not signed anything binding.

The media reports also commented that Eurotrain's lawsuit would be more of a symbolic gesture than anything else.

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