MEXICO CITY, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Mexico’s antitrust watchdog on Friday said the government should change various aspects of a new tender to build a high-speed train system following a political scandal around a previous contract.
Late last year, China Railway Construction Corp (CRCC) and a group of Mexican partners won the tender to build the $3.75-billion rail line, but the contract was revoked and one of CRCC’s Mexican partners sparked a conflict-of-interest scandal.
Last week, authorities revealed fresh preliminary bid terms for the train project linking Mexico City with the wealthy, industrial city of Queretaro.
Mexico’s Federal Competition Commission issued a series of recommendations to change those bid terms.
“The inclusion of a multitude of technical and economic elements could provide an advantage to some participants,” the commission wrote.
Commissioners highlighted technical scoring requirements such as that the winning bidder must have already built at least 300 km (186 miles) of high-speed train tracks.
The commission did not specify any companies by name. Commission representatives were not immediately available to clarify if authorities were required to heed its recommendations or if they were only non-binding guidelines.
Sources with knowledge of the bidding have told Reuters that CRCC looks poised to clinch the new contract given its broad financing plan, its cheap high-speed technology and political support in Mexico.
Since taking office in 2012, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has courted China’s government and businesses to boost investment in Mexico. The high-speed train project is meant to be one of Pena Nieto’s flagship infrastructure investments.
But controversy exploded when it surfaced that Grupo Teya, one of the Mexican firms in the CRCC-led consortium, was a subsidiary of a government contractor that owned a multimillion-dollar home Pena Nieto’s wife was in the process of buying.
The government revoked the contract on Nov. 6, a few days before the Teya revelations were published.
Companies now have six months to prepare their bids for a July 14 deadline. The commission said that six-month countdown should only begin once all interested parties have had access to all the information needed to make a bid. (Reporting by Michael O‘Boyle and Adriana Barrera; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)