Eurostar faces court challenge over choice of train-builder

Channel Tunnel train operator Eurostar is to face a court challenge over its decision to award a £500 million order for new high speed trains to a German company rather than a French one.

Earlier this month Eurostar said that an order for 10 new trains had been won by Siemens of Germany, disappointing the French government which had hoped French company Alstom would get the order.

Eurostar now says that Alstom, which built the Eurostar trains currently running through the tunnel, is starting a High Court action to try to stop the contract being signed.

Eurostar said: "Alstom, which submitted a bid as part of the procurement process, has now commenced a legal challenge to try to prevent the signature of the purchase contract.

"Eurostar firmly believes that the arguments raised by Alstom in support of its challenge are without foundation. Siemens submitted a bid that was significantly better than that of Alstom on key aspects.

"Its first argument is that only its own trains can and should be used in the Channel Tunnel because of legacy operating rules in place."

The issue around the rules relates to the use of trains with multiple engines - distributed power - rather than more traditional trains with a power car at each end - concentrated power.

Eurostar went on: "Alstom, like Siemens, proposed a distributed power train. It made no objection to recent consultation proposals by the independent safety authority for the Tunnel to update (whilst preserving or enhancing the levels of safety protection) the legacy operating rules.

"It raised no issue until very recently, after it had lost the bid."

Eurostar said Alstom also sought to raise technical challenges relating to the procurement process.

Eurostar added: "Eurostar conducted a robust, competitive tender process. All of the bids received were fairly and objectively evaluated against a comprehensive set of criteria. Eurostar has every confidence in the integrity of its procurement process.

"Eurostar believes that the challenge is intended to delay the issue of a contract to a competitor that succeeded in a fairly conducted procurement. It will therefore defend vigorously any challenge."

The new trains are part of a £700 million investment which will include refurbishing the existing Eurostar trains. The new trains are expected to come into service in 2014.

Alstom confirmed that it had filed a claim at the High court in London on 19 October to seek an injunction concerning the Eurostar tender over the validity of the tender process.

 

related content:
Eurostar targets new markets with £700m investment in trains

German train operator pitches for Channel Tunnel routes

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