Big Bidders Drop Out of Light Rail Tender

YERUSHALAYIM -
An Alstom-built train in the Eurostar service from England to France seen at a London station. (Valentin Bech)

Six out of the eight companies that initially participated in a tender for building an extension to the light rail in Yerushalayim have dropped out, according to

Globes on Wednesday.

The three largest European and North American railway manufacturers — Bombardier, Siemens, and Alstom — were among those that withdrew from the process.

The news comes as an embarrassment to the Israeli Ministry of Finance, whose Accountant General Rony Hizkiyahu had proclaimed on Tuesday that “receiving the bids indicates the confidence of the private sector partners in the government’s plans.”

Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz has made no comment on the matter.

Although the companies did not give out the reasons for their withdrawal, Globes pointed to political considerations, saying that “for most of the international transportation and infrastructure companies, Jerusalem is ‘outside the pale.’”

In the case of Alstom, the decision to drop out came after its partners, Electra and Dan, declined to provide compensation in the event of its having to pay fines under French law.

Sources close to the company told Globes that Alstom’s board of directors in France made the decision at the last minute over the heads of its representatives in Israel. After pressure was exerted on it, the board decided against participating in a project that crosses the Green Line “in disputed areas in Jerusalem.”

Alstom maintains railway cars for Israel Railways, is responsible for the communications components in the Tel Aviv light rail Red Line, which is currently being built, and manufactures carriages for the Yerushalayim light rail Red Line.

In addition, Spanish railway company CAF, which stayed in the bidding, won’t have an easy time of it either, if it wins the contract. The CAF workers’ committee has announced that their people refuse to work in Yerushalayim. All of which could leave the Chinese company CRCC the winner by default.