A few bombshells in this report. Ouch!
The Chinese company which won the $2.3 billion contract to build Melbourne's new train fleet is central to President Xi Jinping's controversial Belt and Road Initiative and was recently blacklisted by the US government due to the security risks posed by its ties to the Chinese government.
CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles, which beat local bids in 2016 to win the contract to build 65 new high-capacity metro trains, is a subsidiary of major Chinese state-owned rolling stock manufacturer CRRC and has been identified as a beneficiary of Uighur labour.
An Age and Sydney Morning Herald investigation has also found the Andrews government hired a person who had recently worked for Downer, which is part of the Evolution Rail consortium with CRRC, to play a key role in the tender process in 2015. Just months after CRRC and Downer won the bid in 2016, the official went back to work for Downer, raising questions about the impartiality of the tender process.
I do hate it when articles are posted with a couple of grab lines, but omit the detail.
CRRC is the worlds largest railway car supplier valued at over $40B, they have made train sets for dozens of cities around the world including the US. The security concerns raised in this article relate to fully fitted trains, off the shelf ready to go. Thats not what we have here in Melbourne, we are getting shells and fitting them out with our own tech. Hence the 18 month delay. Most Chinese companies are linked back to a state controlled company, it goes with China's communists vibe.
The issue with BRI and CRRC is when lovely China lets you have $2B worth of rail stock and lets you pay later. Holding small, poorer counties to ransom on loans they wont be able to pay back.
Bombardier and Alstom did not have the facilities or capacity to manufacture the 65 HCTMS, it would have required the construction of a new facility blowing out the time frame even more. Both these companies (now the same owner) are likely to be awarded contracts for next generation regional and metro train sets.
- Another 100 or so metro trains will need to be built over the next 20 years to allow the complete withdrawal of the Comengs and to cater to new lines and increased frequencies. The government is currently in discussions with Alstom about Xcrap 2.0.
- Next generation regional trains are also on the agenda, with Bombardier in pole position to win the contract.
At least 60% of the work is being done in Melbourne by Melbournains, NSW bought fully completed sets as they don't have the skills to make trains.
I cant see future train sets coming from CRRC, China is very much on the nose now. Alstom could push out a train every couple of months for 5 - 10 years. Pretty much what they have been doing with Xcraps since the early 2000's. They just need a long term contract, not 10 trains here and 10 trains there.
As for the hiring of an expert to work on the tender, praise the gods that they state had some sense to do it. The said person was not a Downer employe, he was on a contract. Was then contracted with the state for 12 months before moving on. This isn't uncommon for skilled railway experts to go from contact to contact. Projects come and go, cant be on them forever.