Relations sour in rail design consulting
Backstage in the Czech railway industry daggers are drawn. Recent weeks have seen unusual levels of enmity among design consultancy firms. And the current abundance of objections, notices of appeal, queries and protests are complicating the dividing up of commissions seen as decisive to the future of domestic rail transport.
“Sometimes these things are happening perhaps four or five times during one order and the delay then accounts for many months. In such a case the initiation of the design phase is postponed,” said Tomáš Slavíček, director of design, consulting and engineering company Sudop Praha.
Firms are mutually accusing each other of obstruction and of spitefully making moves which interminably stretch out commission tenders. Some objections are being filed at the last possible moment or are being made by firms which ultimately do not enter the tender, according to Kateřina Šubová, spokesperson for the Administration for the Rail Transport Network [SŽDC]. Last year, the SŽDC solved dozens of blocked contests for orders. Obstructions can prove a lengthy hindrance to a project breaking ground or drawing down European funds. The overall value of delayed constructions is estimated at more than CZK 40bn.
Nobody, however, is giving clear answers to the question of who exactly is blocking contests and devising obstacles. But it is not difficult to guess that battle lines have been drawn by two well-known players in this rail industry sphere, namely Sudop Praha and the relatively recently established Centre for Efficient Transport (CEDOP) think tank, founded in 2009. One of those involved in the controversy is former transport minister and ex-director of SŽDC Petr Šlegr.
CEDOP has long criticised standards in the preparation of rail constructions, but it was limiting itself to debate. That has changed. “In the hope of improving the situation we decided that in cooperation with foreign entities we would enter into design consulting work on the Czech market that has been closed off for decades,” said Šlegr.
A partnership of CEDOP and France’s Egis Rail is making tender breakthroughs, but it is struggling with additional order conditions, such as language requirements and other challenging areas. Often it requests more exact specifications for orders or the omitting of conditions which it considers discriminatory. And often it is eliminated from a tender.