New trains in million-franc legal dispute

One of the new trains being manufactured in a Bombardier workshop Keystone

Bombardier Transportation is demanding a reported CHF326 million ($360 million) from Swiss Federal Railways in connection with the biggest rolling stock order in Swiss history: 59 double-deck trains.

This content was published on January 23, 2014 - 12:19 and agencies

The legal row comes less than three weeks before voters decide on a wide-ranging package which supporters say would put future Swiss railway infrastructure investments on a solid financial footing.

Swiss Railways spokesman Stephan Wehrle confirmed a Wednesday evening report on the Rundschau programme on Swiss public television, SRF, adding that the claim was “unfounded”.

“The fact is that we’re working with Bombardier and we’re trying to get the trains in action as quickly as possible,” he said.

According to Rundschau, the claim is worth CHF326 million.

Bombardier Transportation, one of the world’s largest companies in the rail equipment manufacturing and servicing industry, accuses Swiss railways, according to a confidential document shown on the programme, “of disrupting the contractual development of the project with unacceptable interventions in the design process”.

As a result of the changes, it said, the terms of delivery as set out in the CHF1.9 billion contract signed in 2010 were no longer applicable, the document said.

Delays in delivery of the new trains were revealed on January 5 by the SonntagsBlick newspaper in an interview with Swiss Railways boss Andreas Meyer.

Meyer said the first trains, originally set to be delivered at the end of 2013, wouldn’t get rolling until the 2016 timetable, which comes into effect in December 2015.

“We’ve been waiting for a while for a reliable delivery plan from Bombardier,” Wehrle said, adding that the fact that no such plan was yet available was worrying.

He pointed to clauses in the contract in case of non-respect of delivery. “If delays are recorded – as here – the supplier is liable to a contractual penalty. With large sums involved like in this case, it could rapidly reach hundreds of millions.”

Innovative trains

The trains – 50 of which are 200 metres in length and nine 100 metres – are set to include energy-efficient engines, electricity plugs and wireless internet in all carriages, roomier lavatories and at least one baby-changing table.

There will also be a business section for meetings, video cameras to improve security and technology to prevent passengers’ ears from popping when going into a tunnel or passing another fast-moving train.

Bombardier Transportation is a division of Bombardier Inc., a Canadian conglomerate founded by Joseph-Armand Bombardier in 1942. Bombardier Transportation has its headquarters in Berlin, but it is represented in Switzerland at sites in Zurich, Villeneuve and Winterthur which develop and manufacture commuter and regional transport trains as well as suburban rail vehicles and trams.

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