A TRANSPORT expert has called for an open and transparent process for companies bidding to build trains for the Victorian rail network after Ballarat manufacturer Alstom was culled from the list of bidders.
University of Melbourne transport planning lecturer John Stone said a private tendering process, shrouded by commercial-in-confidence rules, did not necessarily deliver the best outcome for taxpayers and the travelling public.
Last week, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union official Pete Douglas confirmed Alstom had lost its bid to build 25 Metro trains as part of a multibillion-dollar upgrade of the Dandenong rail corridor.
While Alstom spokesman Sheldon Young declined to comment on the bidding process because the company was bound by “confidentiality of the process”, he said the lost bid would force Alstom to do much “soul searching” about the future of its Ballarat factory, which employs about 60 people.
Mr Stone said protecting Australian jobs should be a consideration in the tendering process.
The competition to build the next set of 25 trains for Metro is now between two Asian rail giants.
Both of the corporations bidding to build the new trains, worth an estimated $376 million, have links to Metro’s parent company in Hong Kong, MTR. They are China North Rail, which is owned by the Chinese government, and South Korean manufacturer Rotem. MTR is lead partner in the consortium, delivering a $2 billion to $2.5 billion boost to the Dandenong rail corridor, including the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines. Contracts are due to be signed by September 30 before the November state election.
Alstom is still contracted to build eight further examples of Melbourne’s current train model, the X’Trapolis. They will be completed mid -next year.
Apart from the 60 staff at Alstom’s Ballarat yards, the lost bid could also affect 30 or more other Australian suppliers.
The only other domestic train-maker, Bombardier, which has a factory in Dandenong, did not bid and opted to be a subcontractor to China North Rail so the Chinese company’s bid satisfies local manufacturing laws.
Bombardier is already committed to building 50 E-Class trams and 75 trains for south-east Queensland.
No open tender was held for the order of 25 trains, with the MTR-led consortium instead inviting six companies to bid.
The winning bid will be chosen by an assessment team independent of both the government and the consortium.