Tuesday, February 24, 2004


Kawasaki Rail Car, Inc., the company which lost the Silverliner V contract to United Transit Systems, LLC despite a higher techincal rating, filed a lawsuit this morning in Philadelphia County Common Pleas Court.

The Inquirer reports that Kawasaki is seeking an injunction against SEPTA from awarding the contract to United Transit Systems, accusing SEPTA of rigging the bidding process in order to award the contract to a group with significant political connections.

At the core of Kawasaki's lawsuit is its claim that the bid specifications were changed to relax a requirement that the winning bidder have specific experience manufacturing stainless steel railcars "which comply" with federal technical specifications.

United Transit does not have such experience.

On May 30, 2003, SEPTA changed the specifications to require only "prior experience" generally with federal requirements, doing away with the more specific requirement.

Kawasaki contends that without the change, United Transit would have been disqualified.

SEPTA officials, in an interview last week and in a letter to Kawasaki, have contended the wording was changed to eliminate any possible ambiguity.

As part of its court action, Kawasaki filed affidavits from three other competitors stating that those firms did not bid on the job because they could not meet the original experience rule.

If the second set of specifications had been in place originally, Siemens, Hitachi, and CAF, a Spanish railcar maker, said in the affidavits filed yesterday that they, too, would have bid for the contract.

Some reports from Washington indicate that it's probably a blessing that CAF didn't bid on the contract, as there have been reported problems with WMATA's 5000-series Metrorail car fleet, which was built by CAF. The problems were significant enough to halt production of WMATA's newest Metrorail cars.

The reaction to the lawsuit from SEPTA Minister of Mis-Information Richard Maloney was, shall we say, predictable.

"We are very confident we have followed... the letter and spirit of the law, and we will prevail," said Richard Maloney, the transit agency's chief spokesman.

Right. That's what the NFL was saying after the Maurice Clarett lawsuit.

If last year's lawsuit regarding the Market Street El reconstruction is any indication, Kawasaki may be spinning it's heels, which is rather unfortunate. At the same time, the Market Street lawsuit was filed in federal court, while this legal action is being sought in state court.

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