Construction Week Newsletter 4th June 2005

Was it the Mitsubishi consortium's good looks that tipped the balance for the Metro contract?

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By  Sean Cronin Published  June 4, 2005

‘Aesthetic’ appeal of Mitsubishi Metro bid wins the day |~|metro-pic2body.jpg|~||~|Aesthetics is a word that doesn’t often crop up in the construction industry. In fact, you could chat about construction all day long and not have any cause to mention it at all. Which is why it was a pleasant surprise to see it appear unexpectedly on the press release announcing the winning bid for the Dubai Metro. There it was, sprouting from the page, like a blossom poking up through freshly poured concrete: “We found the offers were acceptable from a technical point of view. The difference was that some consortia were better than their counterparts in certain ‘aesthetic’ aspects," said the statement. So it was the aesthetic appeal of the AED 12.45 billion winning bid from the Mitsubishi Corporation that impressed the judges. Yes, the aesthetic appeal and the fact that their bid was some AED 6 billion cheaper than the next one might have had something to do with it as well. I can identify with the obvious dilemmas facing the bid evaluation committee. “Now ladies and gentleman, Mitsubishi say they can build our Metro for about AED 12 billion, while the other three consortia have all tendered in excess of AED 18 billion. “There really is nothing between them as far as I can see, but I must say that the Mitsubishi proposal is rather more pleasing to the eye and has a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ in design terms, that I feel is lacking in the other bids. "And just look at the quality of the binding on those tender documents. Absolutely smashing. “So let’s have the one that’s AED 6 billion cheaper shall we?” Like the Miss World contestants who want to travel the globe and meet people of different cultures, ‘aesthetic appeal’ is a box to be ticked, but it is not THE box to be ticked. In all seriousness, how can there be a difference of AED 6 billion on the bids for what is a linear rail project with a fixed number of stations and a specified length? It should be about as likely as a 280lb Miss World winner. There are only two explanations. The first is that the Mitsubishi price was unfeasibly low and the second is that the other three bids were unfeasibly high. In a world where we are told contractor margins are often just two or three per cent of the overall contract value, here we have a situation where the winning bid on one of the most high profile projects in the region is some 30 per cent cheaper than the rest of the field. It is clear that somebody didn’t do their sums very well. But the most amusing news to have emerged from the event was that on hearing the Mitsubishi bid was around AED 6 billion cheaper than theirs, the other bidders managed to suddenly find a commensurate amount in savings on their own proposals, which up until then had eluded them. It only remains to congratulate Mitsucheapi for its winning bid. Excuse me, I did of course mean Mitsubishi.||**||

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