Bucharest chooses Turkish trams over Romanian

Bucharest wants to buy a hundred new trams from a Turkish factory, despite the fact that a Romanian company, Astra Vagoane Călători, also applied to the capital’s tender. The Romanian company, based in Arad, argues that the decision of the City Hall of Bucharest is incorrect, contests the acquisition, and will fight for this huge opportunity.

According to the latest report, the Bucharest Public Transport Company has 486 trams; most of them are old to very old and are breaking down more and more often. So the City Hall of Bucharest launched a call for tenders to buy a hundred new trams for RON 856 million (EUR 181 mln). The institution, led by Mayor Gabriela Firea, underlined in the call that it would accept projects from big companies only. According to the call, applicant companies’ average annual turnover for 2015, 2016, and 2017 should be at least RON 280 million (EUR 58 mln).

There is a Romanian company, Astra Vagoane Călători from Arad, which manufactures rail vehicles, passenger coaches, trams, metro trains, and trolleybuses, and has several orders from different Romanian cities. But it couldn’t even submit a bid for the Bucharest tram tender, as its annual turnover was “too small.” So it decided to collaborate with Crrc Qingdao Sifang Co. Ltd, a Chinese company in order to apply for the bid.

Autentic tram
A product of the Romanian company, the Autentic tram


In the end, only two bids were submitted: one from the Romanian-Chinese joint venture and one from Turkish company Durmazlar Makine Sanayi Ve Ticaret SA. After the City Hall received the offers, a very tense competition ensued: The bid was contested and even suspended. Eventually, the project was resumed, and in August 2019, the City Hall announced that it would extend the adjudication period until December 15. However, it seems things have moved a little faster than expected, and at the beginning of November, the City Hall chose a winner: the Turkish factory. But, for some reason, the institute “forgot” to announce the decision; it only informed Astra.

The leaders of the capital explained to the Romanian company why they chose the Turkish factory over them. According to City Hall, in the evaluation process, the foreign company obtained a higher score than the Romanian-Chinese association.

Sources told Ziare.com, that Astra participated in the tender with its Imperio model, while the Turkish company did so with their Panorama tram.

Astra Vagoane Călători
The Imperio model of Astra Vagoane Călători


The management of Astra was surprised by the decision, especially since they knew that the Panorama tram did not fit the requirements of the capital. The Turkish tram is too wide and does not have enough double doors, Gheorghe Sirbu, general manager of Astra, told Ziare.com. He pointed out that the Panorama is 2.65 meters wide, while the call asked for trams no wider than 2.45 meters.

The Panorama tram
The Panorama tram


The manager of the company also told Ziare.com, that they requested a part of the documentation from the City Hall in order to see how the evaluation was done, understand why the Turkish offer was better than theirs, and check if the Turkish trams fit the requirements. The City Hall sent the company the requested documents, but most of the information was redacted. Representatives of the City Hall told Astra that the Turkish company keeps their offers secret; that is why they were not able to provide information about the trams they are about to buy.

Gheorghe Sirbu told Ziare.com, he had never heard of secret information in a bid before. Furthermore, later he asked for public documents, such as the annexes of the evaluation report, but didn’t receive anything from the City Hall. On November 14, Astra contested the decision made by the City Hall. So, long story short, the inhabitants of Bucharest will enjoy their old trams for a while.

Title image: Most of the trams in Bucharest are very old and break down very often


Author: Orsi Sarány