Montreal-based Bombardier Inc, the world's largest maker of railway equipment, has withdrawn its bid for the construction of the MRT system linking CKS International Airport to Taipei City, citing safety issues, according to a company document obtained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 (
"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 (
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 (
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 (
DPP Legislator Chen Tsiao-long (
"First, I don't think legislators should get involved in public construction projects, thereby raising doubts about an under-the-table deal," Chen said. "Second, a public hearing should be open to the public and in the legislature rather than in the MOTC."
Kathryn Nickerson, director at Bombardier's communications division, said under Taiwanese procurement law, suppliers must be totally compliant with the RFP, including the technical specifications.
The current technical specifications call for rotary propulsion and precludes Bombardier from bidding its linear-induction-motor Advanced Rapid Transit technology.
"We suggested that the technical specifications be opened up to permit all bidders can bid for the most appropriate technology in terms of safety and operational performance. This, in turn, would have given the customer the opportunity to evaluate the merits of all the proposed transit-system technologies," Nickerson said by e-mail yesterday.
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