The long-debated broad-gauge railway project that would connect eastern Russia to Vienna via eastern Slovakia is facing new problems.

Some of the unsuccessful bidders who took part in the tender on carrying out a study into feasibility of extending the broad-gauge railway from eastern Slovakia to Vienna are considering appealing against the result.

Two companies owned by the same parent company featured in two competing consortiums, according to information obtained by the TASR newswire on August 27. The company called Valbek s.r.o. features in the successful consortium, while this company is a subsidiary of Valbek VZ. Both Valbek VZ’s website and the Trade Registry reveal that the company has ownership links with the PRODEX company which is part of an unsuccessful consortium along with Schimetta and Tectum.

Lawyer Jana Martinkova told TASR that this case doesn’t involve any conflict of interest, however. “Participation of companies linked in terms of ownership isn’t directly forbidden,” she said. “Nevertheless, it raises undesired doubts that these companies may have coordinated their moves in the tender ... which may have affected economic competition.”

The tender has also been criticised by construction experts. “It’s strange that a consortium featuring Valbek s.r.o. was able to win [the tender],” Dopravoprojekt general director Gabriel Koczkas told TASR. “According to my information, this company hasn’t anything to do with rail constructions and it hasn’t prepared any project for rail construction so far.”

Eduard Manco, CEO of Valbek s.r.o., confirmed that his company is part of the winning consortium. “It was announced to the consortium that we, as bidders, had presented a bid that was evaluated as the most advantageous in technical and economic terms, and that there was an intention to sign a contract with the consortium,” he wrote in a statement for TASR. He added that the tender continues, and only the organiser of the tender can provide further information.

The Bernard-Obermayer-Valbek consortium won the tender with a bid of less than €6 million. Unsuccessful bidders are considering to appeal due to what seems to them too a low price which is very similar to that for a preliminary study drawn up by Roland Berger in 2011. The current document should be far more comprehensive, they say.

If two bidders are cooperating, they may make it appear that their cheap bids aren’t that unrealistic after all, which may help one of the bidders to gain an advantage when its bid is being evaluated, Martinková said.

The study was commissioned by Vienna-based company Breitspur Planungsgesellschaft which is managed by the Austrian, Ukrainian, Russian and Slovak rail companies. Slovak rail company Železnice Slovenskej Republiky (ŽSR) has confirmed that the selection process is entirely in the hands of the Austrians. The tender had to conform with Austrian legislation and regulations, and the announcement on its organisation was published in the European Public Procurement Bulletin.

Slovak Transport, Construction and Regional Development Minister Ján Počiatek claims that the €6-billion project should only bring positives for Slovakia. This strategic project would connect Asia and Europe via an alternative route to maritime transport. The Slovak opposition is criticising the project, however, claiming that the area of Čierna nad Tisou in Košice region, with its rail terminal which currently boasts being the “biggest harbour on land in central Europe” will lose hundreds of jobs due to all trains having to change gauges there.

(Source: TASR)
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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