Several Cuenca municipal council members are furious about the delay in choosing a contractor to complete the city’s beleaguered tranvía project. Meanwhile, the city defends its bid review process and says a new project manager will be chosen within days.
“They say they are reviewing the bids but how long do they need?” asks Councilwoman Dora Ordóñez, referring the committee studying the qualifications of the two companies that bid to assume project management. “This goes on and on and never seems to end. We are all sick of it, especially the business owners and residents along the train route. It’s time to finish the job.”
Like almost every other aspect of the tram project, the awarding of the project management contract is behind schedule. Originally, the city said the contractor would be selected July 3. Even when the mayor’s office said it needed more time to study the bids, it announced that a contractor would be selected by August 15.
The selection of a new project manager became necessary when the original contractor, the Spanish Consorcio Cuatro Ríos de Cuenca (CCRC), walked off the job almost a year ago in a payment dispute with the city.
Councilman Marco Avila blames Mayor Marcelo Cabrera for the delay. “He had the authority to contract directly, without a bid, and he decided on this process,” he claims. “I appreciate the need for transparency, but this is an emergency that required quick action. The review has been an enormous waste of time that prolongs the misery that the construction has brought to the city.”
City tram coordinator Edison Castro says the review was necessary because of the differences in bid amounts and the project histories of the two bidders. “We cannot afford to make a mistake with the decision,” says Castro. “This has been a rigorous qualification process due to the circumstances.”
Although China Railway No. 9 Engineering Group is the low bidder at $32.7 million, the French Consorsio ACTN, with a bid of $50.5 million, includes the Alstom Corporation which installed the tramway and manufactured the rolling stock for the project.
According to Castro, the large difference in bid amounts has to be weighed against the qualifications of the bidders. “ACTN-Alstom has the advantage of having made and installed most of the tramway as well as the rail cars and other project accessories,” he says. “On the other hand, in several of its contracts (China Railway No. 9) Engineering Group has failed to deliver projects on time. We are considering the bid amounts but also the relative competencies and work histories of the contractors.”
Castro says he understands the frustrations of council members as well as the general public. “The decision will be made within a few days and work will begin shortly afterwards.”
He adds that the winning contractor will have 300 calendar days to finish the project.