Sat, Sep 03, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Bombardier pulls out of CKS rail link bid

SAFETY CONCERNS A letter from a top company official said the firm feared that the job's specifications would compromise passenger safety and the system's efficiency

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Montreal-based Bombardier Inc, the world's largest maker of railway equipment, has withdrawn its bid for the construction of the MRT system linking CKS International Airport to Taipei City, citing safety issues, according to a company document obtained by the Taipei Times.

"We cannot afford to be associated with a project which, if performed in accordance with the current specifications and conditions, will compromise passenger safety, system efficiency, and the ability of the project to be completed on time and within the specified budget," Raymond Betler, president of Bombardier's total transit system, said in a letter sent to Wu Fu-hsiang (吳福祥), director-general of the Bureau of High Speed Rail, which is part of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC).

"We therefore regretfully inform you that we will not bid the project as currently specified in the RFP [request for proposal]," Betler said in the letter.

The NT$26 billion (US$793.9 million) tender for the project's mechanical and electrical system has opened for bidders and is due to close on Wednesday.

Wu said he received Betler's letter, which also mentioned that the bureau had neglected the company's previous safety concerns, including a report by Brian Mellitt, a former president of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in the UK.

"Our consultants to the project said there is no problem with the design of the project," Wu said yesterday in a phone interview.

The report was unveiled by Mellitt at a public hearing at the MOTC on Aug. 26.

According to Betler's letter, the report says the RFP uses a technology that has been rejected for steep grade alignments by many developed countries.

The bureau said the problem can be solved by using track brakes, but the brakes are not provided for in the RFP's Bill of Quantities, Betler wrote.

He also noted that the current RFP will result in an inefficient system that causes accidents, station overshoots and switch overshoots. Any company that wins the bid will require substantial additional change orders, which will increase the cost and waste taxpayers' money, the letter said.

In response to the letter, Pang Jar-hua (龐家驊), the bureau's deputy director-general in charge of the project, said Bombardier had the right to decide whether or not to tender a bid.

Pang said the project has been endorsed by high-speed railway consultants from Germany, the US and France, and that the specifications will not be changed at this late date because of Mellitt's report.

Bombardier has in the past offered suggestions on the project, Pang said, but many of its suggested changes would require patent technology and products that only Bombardier has, which would make it the only qualified bidder.

The construction conditions cited in Mellitt's report are not in accordance with Taiwan's conditions, he said.

Two years ago Bombardier was mentioned as the apparent contractor when lawmakers questioned Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Ling-san (林陵三) about his partiality toward the company following a trip he made to Canada.

Suspicion were heightened by mention of a "public hearing" in the letter. The "hearing" was actually a closed-door meeting that Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chang Chuan-tien (張川田) hosted with Bombardier in the MOTC, without any of the other possible bidders.

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