(Trinidad Guardian) China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) has been awarded a $221.7 million contract by the National infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) to build the controversial Curepe Interchange, the state company’s chairman Herbert George has confirmed.
The deal with CRCC was signed off on only recently after it won the bid and contract, bringing an end to three years of controversy and delays that had surrounded the proposed mega project.
Fresh tenders went out on March 27 and closed on June 7. Of the five companies that submitted bids, three were local while two were Chinese firms.
CRCC also won the contract for the Arima Hospital, which is being built at $1.2 billion, while they constructed the Scarborough General Hospital.
“Cabinet has approved the preferred contractor China Railway. They will be the contractor doing the job. They have a joint venture with some local people, so they would do the project,” George said at his El Socorro office last weekend.
George said the cost of the project was reduced by a staggering $179 million, as the original price tag was $400 million He said the $221 million was VAT inclusive.
“So we have saved the taxpayer quite a tidy sum, a substantial sum of $179 million in getting this project off the ground. We did the tendering in a transparent way, where people were given opportunity to tender openly and that is what we got.”
He said one reason for the slash in price was that contractors had been submitting competitive bids, which was triggered by the slowed economy and stagnant construction sector, which was now gradually picking up with the number of projects Nidco had executed in the last few months.
“Contractors are coming with competitive prices,” George said.
Nidco president Esther Farmer added that they had saved millions of dollars on a number of projects they executed.
George said Nidco used a two-envelope system in the tendering process.
“One deals with technical, so it gave us an idea of the structure of your company and how you propose to engage the job, as well as if you have the experience to give us confidence that you know what you are doing and you would be able to discharge your responsibilities.”
Asked when the project will begin, George said CRCC’s contract was being prepared and should be ready and signed in next two weeks. Thereafter, CRCC will have to submit its insurance, performance bond and pre-payment bond.
“These things would take a few weeks to finalise, but once we have everything in place work will begin full speed ahead.”
Asked where the funding for the project was coming from, George could not provide the details.
“That would have to come from the Ministry of Finance. What we (Nidco) do is give the value. We will send it on to Cabinet and Cabinet is going to approve, they are the ones who source the funds. They will just send back to us and ask us to implement. They are the client and they will find the monies and so,” George said.
He said they hope work will start actually before the year’s end. The project, which is a design build package, is expected to be completed in 18 months
“So the contractor would be in place, he (CRCC) would start work, but his designers might be working out the details.”
George agreed the interchange would play a key role in alleviating traffic along the Southern Main Road and the Churchill Roosevelt Highway (CRH) which motorists have been experiencing for years.
“This project is long overdue and it’s welcoming that construction is finally going to take place,” he said.
He said Nidco would still have to ensure work was executed without causing disruption to motorists, commuters and businesses.
Work on the interchange will start from the Southern Main Road and go all the way to the bustling intersection of the CRH. At the intersection, two loops will be built for motorists to get onto the west and east lanes of the highway. The traffic lights at the CRH intersection will be removed to allow vehicles a free flow onto the four lanes that will be constructed on the interchange.
George assured that once the project got under way, it would help create jobs, stimulate the economy and eventually bring relief to thousands of frustrated motorists and commuters.
In June 2015, then Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley had raised concerns about the $400 million Curepe Interchange project and called for it to be stopped after Nidco jointly awarded Lutchmesingh Transport Company and Vinci Construction the contract.
The contract had been given to the two top bidders and was expected to start in July—one month after, following a public falling out over the tendering process.
Then former minister in the ministry of works and infrastructure Stacy Roopnarine had locked horns with her boss, Dr Suruj Rambhachan, after it was revealed that Lutchmesingh Transport had been selected for the job even though it ranked second in the tendering process.
The first ranked bidder was Vinci Construction, who lost out because of its high costing for the mega project.
However, Nidco decided to award the project jointly to the two top bidders, which then Nidco chairman Carson Charles had revealed to the T&T Guardian.
This led to calls by Rowley to the then People’s Partnership government, mere weeks from a general election, to immediately pull the plug on the contract.
This was done and resulted in Lutchmesingh Transport initiating a lawsuit against Nidco over its rejected bid for the proposed interchange. The company sought damages through the court for wasted expenditure incurred participating in the tendering process, which it claimed was rendered pointless by Nidco’s breaches of contract for the opportunity to obtain a profit-making contract.
The action was filed in April 2015, two months after it was informed that its tender for the project was not considered.
However Lutchmesingh Transport lost its million dollar lawsuit against Nidco when Justice Vasheist Kokaram upheld a preliminary application from Nidco’s attorney and struck out the matter.
When Rohan Sinanan was appointed Works and Transport Minister last November, reports surfaced on social media that he owned land once occupied by the Kay Donna Drive-In cinema on the CRH which was earmarked to be acquired for the interchange and was deemed a conflict of interest. Sinanan made it clear that while it was true he has an interest in the land with other stakeholders “what has been circulating” was not true, and he promised to recuse himself from the land acquisition process.