Monday 23 April 2018

Global firms in €400m court battle over bid to operate M50 tolls

Second toll operator sues State body over contentious bidding process

The M50 toll. Photo: Arthur Carron
The M50 toll. Photo: Arthur Carron
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

A subsidiary of one of the world's largest toll road operators is suing the National Roads Authority - becoming the second bidder for the operation of tolls on the M50 to do so.

The awarding of the lucrative contract, valued between €200m and €400m, has been suspended following legal action by Emovis, a subsidiary of Spain's Abertis Group, and TransCore LP, a subsidiary of the New York Stock Exchange-listed Roper Technologies.

Emovis has been involved with the M50 tolling service since its inception under the brand name eFlow and was ranked fourth in the process. TransCore was ranked as the second-placed tenderer in the competition.

Both companies are seeking to have the decision to award the winning bid to the Turas consortium set aside. It's the third major public procurement row to hit the courts in less than a year.

The National Roads Authority, which is now Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), may seek to have the automatic suspension to award to preferred bidder Turas lifted as the cases proceed in the fast-track Commercial Court. It told the court the proceedings relate to the award of a "public contract of significant public importance".

The Sunday Independent has learned that there was a nine-point difference between the Turas and Emovis bids, with Emovis calculating that Turas's bid was some €60m more expensive in absolute terms than its own.

Both underbidders - which received post-tender debriefings from TII - are challenging the evaluation methodology deployed by the authority, alleging that they would have won the bid had different marks been awarded to their bids.

It is alleged by the disappointed bidders that the TII failed to adhere to its own evaluation methodology.

In its action, Emovis is seeking damages for breach of Irish and European Union law and damages for breach of implied and/or collateral contract.

As well as seeking the quashing of the tender, TransCore is also seeking declarations from the court that the decision to award the contract on February 28 to Turas fails to comply with the requirements of public procurement law.

The M50 toll contract is one of the most lucrative public procurement awards.

By the time the 'first generation' contract expires next year, the operation will have collected some €1bn in toll and penalty revenues for the authority from more than four million customers who will have made 420 million trips on the barrier-free M50.

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