The China Railway Electrification Engineering Group Co is up against rival bidders; Balfour Beatty; Colas Rail; and Rapide JV – a consortium of SPL Powerlines UK/INEO/Keltbray.
It comes just a month after a major Turkish specialist rail contractor made the final three firms for HS2’s £275m network control centre and rolling stock maintenance depot in Washwood Heath, Birmingham.
The moves have sparked concern that HS2, which has so far trumpeted the amount of orders placed with established UK-presence contractors, is casting its net further afield for cost savings.
One insider told the Enquirer: “It seems a little odd that for one of the last activities on this phase of HS2, the client would bring in bidder like a state-owned Chines railway group.
“No UK presence or experience and I would imagine no experience of the SNCF OCS system.”
The winner of the £300m overhead power systems package will be responsible for additional stages of design as well as manufacture, supply, installation, testing and commissioning of the systems.
HS2 will use the V360 OCS design range under licence from SNCF Reseau – the first system in Europe to be certified for speeds of up to 360km/h.
The licence agreement allows the OCS contractor to go to the components market to find the most competitive supplier, initially hailed as a way of opening up opportunities for smaller suppliers across the UK.
The insider added: “Surely the superficial allure of trying a Chinese solution would be a loss leader price on the major civils to cut the overall project costs rather than on the smaller scale technical works.”