The French national railway, SNCF, will invite Japanese groups to bid on contracts for its next generation of high-speed trains, a newspaper has reported, but the company immediately played this down.
The daily Le Parisien quoted the director of high-speed operations at the group’s France Europe Voyagers branch, Frank Bernard, as saying Wednesday, “The tender for our next generation of TGV will be open to Japanese manufacturers.”
He added, “Prices offered by Japanese industrial groups are very competitive,” Bernard just returned from a 10-day trip to Japan.
An SNCF spokesman later said, “So far, discussions with Japanese manufacturers have been limited to exchanges of information and missions to study the Japanese high-speed train. The SNCF will need to renew its rolling stock in the coming years and an international tender will be launched. We do not yet know who will take part.”
Groups such a Kawasaki, Hitachi and Nippon Sharyo, which build the Japanese Shinkansen train, could go head-to-head with Alstom, the French group that has built all French TGVs for the past 25 years, Le Parisien stated. In 2014, the SNCF is to replace the first French trains that entered service in 1981, it added.
The Shinkansen began operations in 1964 between Tokyo and Osaka. It has trumped the French train and a German rival built by Siemens in several contests, including for a Taiwanese line between Taipei and Kaohsiung.
Later this month however, the SNCF is expected to finalize an order worth €1-2 billion ($1.25-2.5 billion) for 40 double-decker TGV trains from a consortium that includes Alstom and the Canadian company Bombardier, the newspaper said.
The SNCF spokesman said only that a European tender for the contract had been launched, without providing financial details, and that Alstom was the only bidder to date.