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France's SNCF can bid for US project despite Nazi past

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French rail firm SNCF will be allowed to bid for contracts in the US state of Maryland where lawmakers had threatened to bar it over its Nazi past, sources said today.

Under France's Vichy regime, SNCF deported some 76,000 Jews to concentration camps in freight cars between 1942 and 1944. Only around 3,000 survived, according to the state-owned company.

Maryland lawmakers had demanded that SNCF compensate the victims before being allowed to join the bidding process for local projects and introduced bills to that effect.

But these measures never made it to a vote in either the eastern state's House or Senate during the 2014 legislative period that ended at midnight Monday, according to sources in both chambers.

This means that SNCF, via its subsidiary Keolis America, will be able to bid on a 25-kilometer public-private light rail project worth nearly USD 3 billion between now and this summer. SNCF, in eyeing that contract, is part of a consortium comprising fellow French firms Alstom and Vinci.

A winning bid is expected to be picked by the end of the year or in early 2015.

During emotional hearings in March, Holocaust survivors and their families had demanded they be compensated for their ordeal. In response, SNCF had argued it was "forced to be a cog" in the Nazi extermination machine.

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