Chinese get to build new bridge

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Norway’s state highway department, Statens vegvesen, has decided that a Chinese construction that submitted the lowest bid to build a bridge in Trøndelag will get the job. Local politicians initially had balked, preferring to award the contract to one of two European firms despite their higher prices.

ILLUSTRATION: Statens vegvesen

The Sichuan Road and Bridge Group (SRBG) was reported to be relieved that it won the contract after all, pending a November 16 deadline for complaints from rival bidders. “This is very good news for us,” SRBG’s spokesman Alexandros Tsetsis told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

The decision came after the county council in Nord-Trøndelag had first opted to dismiss the bid submitted by SRBG, even though it was NOK 40 million lower than the next-lowest of three bids submitted to build the bridge over the Beitstad Sound. It will reduce travel time between Steinkjær and Verran on County Roads 17 and 720.

The county officials had claimed the Chinese bid wouldn’t be accepted because Norway has no trade agreement with China. SRBG had been invited to compete for the project through an international call for bids, however, so the dismissal of the Chinese was deemed unfair in the end. SRBG officials complained bitterly.

Others suspected the local county officials preferred doing business with rival bidders from Skanska of Sweden and PNC of Austria. Their rejection of the Chinese bid, meanwhile, set off worries that China would retaliate by refusing, for example, to accept salmon imports from Trøndelag. China and Norway only recently have ended a six-year diplomatic freeze set off by the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident in 2010. Government politicians feared the bridge dispute would spoil relations between the two countries once again.

The county ultimately turned the decision over to the experts at Statens vegvesen, which cited SBRG’s “efficient work” and ultimately decided it was best-suited to build the 580-meter-long bridge that the Chinese will build for less than NOK 300 million.

Now state highway officials say construction will start by the end of the year. “In order to avoid delays in the purchasing process, building of the bridge can start in the beginning of December,” Jo-Bernt Brønstad, project leader for Statens vegvesen, told NRK.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund