Alstom’s Bid to Block Eurostar Contract Dismissed

Alstom SA failed to win an injunction from a London judge blocking Eurostar Group Ltd. from buying trains from Siemens AG.

Justice Geoffrey Vos at the High Court in London refused to grant the French company a temporary injunction that would have barred Eurostar from signing a contract with Siemens until a full trial could take place. Alstom has claimed it would suffer “serious and irreparable harm,” if the German company were allowed to win a bid for trains to operate in the tunnel under the English Channel.

While Alstom made valid arguments about the fairness of Eurostar’s bidding criteria, Vos said it would be “unjust” for him to “freeze the tendering process.” If he did, it might take as long as a year before Eurostar could place the order.

Eurostar said Oct. 7 it would buy 10 trains from Siemens in a contract worth 600 million euros ($834 million) to add routes and fend off competition from Germany’s Deutsche Bahn AG, which plans services via the tunnel from 2013. A lawyer for Alstom argued earlier this week the company’s rights to transparency and non-discrimination under European Union rules were violated by Eurostar’s bidding process.

“This is Eurostar’s entire business,” Vos said, unlike Alstom which has other projects. “Siemens took the bidding process far more seriously,” than Alstom and listened to what Eurostar was seeking, he said.

Safety Rules

Alstom had also argued Eurostar chose trains with multiple power sources, which breached the tunnel’s safety rules. Existing rules say that only trains with power provided by locomotives at the front or back of the train can go through the tunnel, Alstom lawyer Sarah Hannaford said.

While Vos denied Alstom permission to appeal, under U.K. law the company can now directly petition the Court of Appeal to take the case.

“Alstom will pursue alternative legal options to uphold its position,” the company, based near Paris, said today in a statement following the ruling, adding that it “has already submitted its case to the European Commission.”

Eurostar will postpone signing the contract until Nov. 2 to give them time to file papers, the company’s lawyer Michael Bowsher said.

“We are very pleased that the situation has been resolved and we can proceed to signing the contract for our new fleet of trains with Siemens,” Eurostar, which is controlled by French state rail operator SNCF, said in a statement provided at the court. “We have always been confident we conduct a rigorous tender process and have chosen the best trains for our passengers.”

Siemens is “very pleased that the injunction has been refused,” spokeswoman Anja Uhlendorff said in an e-mailed statement. “We look forward to proceeding and signing the contract with Eurostar once the legal process permits.”

The case, Alstom Transport v. Eurostar International Ltd., is being heard at the High Court in London.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Lumley in London at jlumley1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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