US News Mega contract for the RER B: faced with the withdrawal of Alstom, the manufacturer CAF is preparing its response

20:52  08 february  2021
20:52  08 february  2021 Source:   leparisien.fr

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Damn "Gauls". Across the Pyrenees, the attitude of the giant Alstom to derail the order for the 146 future RER B trains is judged very severely. Several newspapers have devoted analyzes and forums to this case, of which CAF, the Spanish manufacturer based in Beasáin, 40 km south of San Sebastian, in the heart of the Basque Country, is a victim.

CAF, present in 40 countries around the world, has won large orders in the United Kingdom, Latin America and Saudi Arabia. But in France, Alstom seems to be doing everything to put a stick in its wheels, notes the Spanish economic press.

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The “culture of monopoly”

An editorialist for the newspaper Noticia s d e Gu ipuzcoa (the Basque province, headquarters of CAF) points to the “arrogance” of the French group, which has just bought Bombardier and refuses to honor the call for tenders won by the latter in partnership with the Spanish CAF. "The giant Alstom is struggling to move from the culture of monopoly to that of free competition", encouraged in this by public authorities for a long time "accomplices" to eliminate competition on the French market, writes Carlos Etxeberri. Alstom's attitude is that of "a sore loser", adds E l E conomista , "which lowers its prestige at the same time as it harms users of Parisian public transport".

The Basque group, which has been expanding rapidly around the world in recent years, does not intend to stop there. According to news agency EFE , "internal sources" at the company confide that CAF "is currently analyzing the repercussions" of Alstom's withdrawal, while "assuring its willingness to move forward for this market ”.

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This Monday, in Les Echos , the CEO of CAF France, Alain Picard, responds to the attacks of the CEO of Alstom , Henri Poupart-Lafarge, who considers the contract for MI20 trains, won by CAF Bombardier, “non-viable”. Contesting any technical or financial anomaly in the file - validated by SNCF and RATP -, Alain Picard notes that "Alstom's actions prevent all competition in the rail sector". Legally, CAF says it is ready to attack on several fronts. “There is an obstacle to competition on the national territory, which falls under the French Competition Authority. And at European level, the difficulty for a third party to enter the French market raises the question of remedies that are not effective, ”lists Alain Picard.

Whatever the outcome of this “mega contract”, the Basque group will continue to invest in its factory in Bagnères-de-Bigorre (Hautes-Pyrénées), adds the manager. CAF was a candidate for the takeover of the Alstom plant in Reichshoffen (Bas-Rhin). But it was finally sold to the modest Czech group Skoda Transportation, despite the preference of Alstom unions ... for CAF! A choice which still complicates, today, the industrial process to honor this order to more than 2.5 billion, which could be at least two years late. To the chagrin of the million Ile-de-France RER B users.

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A meeting on Wednesday with RATP and SNCF

"The Bombardier-CAF group must be received by its customers on Wednesday," Alain Picard told AFP on Monday after- midday. “The question is going to be who will show up at the meeting. In any case CAF will go, but we don't know if Bombardier will come or not, he said. If they do not come, there is a dispute, because they would prevent us from accessing the contract. So we should attack Bombardier ”.

The sharing of tasks provides for CAF to build the two head cars of the 146 trains - in its Bagnères-de-Bigorre plant - and to supply the bogies (the carriages located under the trains, editor's note) - produced in Spain -, Bombardier s occupying the rest, and in particular mid-size cars in its Crespin (North) plant. The employees of this industrial site expressed their fear and concern in an inter-union press release. "Is Alstom trying to prevent our Crespin site from having its order book continue after 2025?" Ask the unions. "This order was blessed bread for us, with an order book until 2032", explained the South delegate, Karim Khatabi.

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