An official of Central Japan Railway Co is suspected of leaking information to construction firm Obayashi Corp during the tender process for maglev train-related construction work, sources close to the matter said Tuesday.
The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has been looking into the case, questioning the JR Central official and an Obayashi executive among others. Investigators suspect the constructor gained an advantage over its competitors by obtaining inside information from the railway operator.
Obayashi, one of Japan’s four biggest construction companies, won a contract jointly with Toda Corp and JR Tokai Construction Co in April 2016 to build an evacuation exit on the under-construction Tokyo-Nagoya-Osaka maglev train line for about 9 billion yen.
The work is part of the 9 trillion yen next-generation high-speed train project, the world’s first using superconducting magnetic levitation technology, that will see passengers transported at a top speed of 500 kilometers per hour, much faster than the current shinkansen bullet trains.
The JR Central official is suspected of having passed information to Obayashi related to the estimated cost of construction and on which other companies had expressed an intention to bid, according to the sources.
Initially, four bidders showed interest in the tender issued in 2015. Obayashi, acting as the representative of its joint venture with Toda and JR Tokai Construction, is believed to have encouraged other major construction firms to submit higher bids, leading them to be ruled out, the sources said.
JR Central said it will look into the facts by conducting an in-house probe.
In the bidding for the construction of the exit to be used in case of an accident or fire, only bids from Obayashi and another from Kajima Corp proceeded to the second phase of the tender process.
In addition to the 66-year-old vice president who presides over Obayashi’s civil engineering unit, executives of major construction firms such as Kajima have been questioned by prosecutors on a voluntary basis.
Each construction unit of the maglev train project is ordered separately. Obayashi has also won three other contracts from JR Central for work with its joint venture partners.
Services of the maglev trains on a 286-km stretch between Tokyo and Nagoya are slated to begin in 2027, with the aim of extending the line to Osaka by 2045.