KTX Questions Need to Be Answered Now

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KTX Questions Need to Be Answered Now

The Korea Train Express (KTX) project has been subject to much criticism, including charges of bad planning, bogus design, poor construction practises, and inappropriate lobbying activities. As soon as people forget about KTX's problems, more issues are reported. Now, suspicions have been raised that the TGVs (Train a Grande Vitesse, or bullet trains) were sold as the result of lobbying activities. The wife of the manager of the Korean branch of French company Alstom has been arrested, and another woman claiming to be a lobbyist for Alstom, increased suspicions, saying, "I initially advised the company president to use financial support to win the bid but later it became clear that providing money would not win the project. Therefore, I advised Alstom to reduce the price, and as a result, their TGVs were selected."

Is this really true?

In the first round of bidding, TGVs were being offered for $2.601 billion while Siemans ICE were asking $2.643 billion for their trains. However, ICE earned 20 points higher than TGV out of a total of 30,000 points during the initial evaluation process.

The evaluation outcome was totally reversed in the sixth round of bidding, however. But this reversal was not based on reduced prices, in spite of lobbyists' arguments. Alstom reduced the price of the TGVs by only $231 million, while Siemans reduced their price by $276 million. The accompanying evaluation, however, showed that the TGVs won out in the evaluation process by 270 points.

Notably, Alstom still has not defended itself, nor has it claimed that it did not engage in lobbying activities. Alstom will soon participate in the bidding for the Inchon International Airport railway project.

We have to demand answers to these questions right now. Koreans need to know if Alstom actually hired lobbyists. We need to find out all of the details of the contract.

The Korea High Speed Rail Construction Authority must explain in detail Alstom's come-from-behind victory during the sixth bidding round. The evaluation committee consisted of 24 members from the Korea High Speed Rail Construction Authority, 18 members from the Bechtel Group, as well as 13 Korean experts. It is not acceptable that the outcome was reversed during the sixth round of bidding, based only on the evaluations of the 55 committee members.

Each committee member was responsible for 545 of the total 30,000 evaluation points, which means that any member of the committee was capable of reversing the outcome of the bidding. And the Korea High Speed Rail Construction Authority conducted the same evaluation process four times. Therefore, many people became aware that it was possible to reverse the evaluation outcome by lobbying just one or two committee members.

The Korea High Speed Rail Construction Authority must reveal the details of the evaluation by each committee member in order to rescue the honest members from the "swamp of suspicion."

by Eum Sung-jik

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