A TECHNOLOGY firm which supplied materials for the Capital’s tramline would not necessarily be at a commercial advantage if the route is extended, the tram inquiry has heard.
Siemens employee Axel Eickhorn said the council would need to buy some new equipment if it opts to bring the line down to Newhaven but that it did not have to be from them.
However, he said it would make sense to continue with Siemens – part of the previous construction consortium with Bilfinger Berger – given any extension would be adding to one of their own systems.
The inquiry has previously heard, that in a deal brokered in 2011, the council would buy equipment and materials from Siemens even though it would not be needed for the curtailed tram route.
The agreement formed part of a mediation settlement following talks to break the ongoing deadlock between the consortium and tram firm TIE.
Asked how close the council had been to having the necessary materials to extend the line, Mr Eickhorn said it was “maybe even less than half”.
He said: “It’s hard to tell. Some things have been taken into storage.
“There’s electrical equipment that’s been in storage for some time. So it would have to be checked – is it still in good condition, is it still usable.”
“This would have to be assessed in detail in the course of planning the extension.”
Mr Eickhorn, who was deputy commercial manager from October 2008 and commercial project director from October 2011, said he thought there was “always” a plan to extend but that when this would happen was a different question.
He told the inquiry that, if an extension did go ahead, it would be easy for Siemens to provide the outstanding materials and that doing so would make “a lot of sense technically”.
But he added he did “not necessarily” think Siemens would have a commercial advantage over other suppliers just because the council had previously bought their equipment.
He said: “It is a matter of fact to determine what the scope of such extension would be and then to determine what the design will look like and what technologies were to be applied.
“So it is not possible to say that Siemens would have per se a commercial advantage.”
The city council has backed the £165 million extension in principle but will not give the final go-ahead until next autumn.
In October they were accused of “jumping the gun” after it emerged a contract of up to £150,000 had been awarded to Siemens.
The decision was taken by the convener and vice-convener of the council’s finance and resources committee under delegated “urgency provisions” powers.
It relates to how systems such as CCTV and automatic vehicle location systems on the proposed new route would “talk” to the existing line.
Committee convener Alasdair Rankin said it was necessary to ensure procurement was completed on time.
Mr Eickhorn, who was giving evidence at the end of the 14th week of public hearings, was also asked about the mediation process and whether the consortium came out feeling like they had won.
He said: “No, definitely not. I think there was still a bit of scepticism because all the new methods of working and collaboration with the client still had to be implemented and tested.
“But at the time I think there was a sense of relief that a way had been found to continue with the project.”
The inquiry continues.