Canadian Manufacturing

Bombardier left out in the cold on Montreal’s new light rail project

One of the Quebec manufacturer's chief competitors, Alstom, will be responsible for delivering the rail cars for the new $6.3 billion project


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The project is designed to connect the Montreal suburbs and airport to the city’s downtown. PHOTO: CDPQ Infra Inc.

MONTREAL—The project to build an electric light rail network connecting Montreal with its suburbs and international airport was officially launched Feb. 8, with the transit system expected to open by 2021.

Part of two consortiums that will build both the infrastructure and furnish the trains, SNC-Lavalin emerged as the big winner in the procurement battle. Bombardier Inc., meanwhile, was left out in the cold.

“We have been very conscious of the importance of creating a process that had great integrity from beginning to end,” Michael Sabia, head of the province’s public pension fund manager, told a Montreal news conference.

“And through that process, we’ve achieved the result that we wanted to achieve which is the best quality project at the best possible price.”

The transit project will now cost $6.3 billion—$300 million more than the original price tag—and is expected to be ready by the summer of 2021, instead of 2020.

It is being billed as the largest public transportation project in the Montreal area in the last 50 years.

The Caisse de depot pension fund, through subsidiary CDPQ Infra, will provide $2.95 billion in financing for the project and will assume the extra costs.

Quebec and Ottawa will chip in $1.28 billion each, while Hydro-Quebec will add $295 million and the regional transit agency an additional $512 million.

Premier Philippe Couillard described the project as one of the largest public undertakings in the province since the James Bay hydroelectric project.

“We have come back to the era of major projects in Quebec,” he said at the news conference.

Couillard also struck a reassuring tone for Bombardier Transport, based in La Pocatiere, Que., which lost out on the contract.

There will be other contracts in the future, Couillard assured, noting that Montreal’s subway system is expanding.

“There will be (subway) expansions; there may be new lines of different colours,” he said. “There is a lot of work awaiting the people of Bombardier.”

A spokesman for Bombardier Transport said the company and its employees were “disappointed” at not being chosen.

Eric Prud’homme said the company’s La Pocatiere plant, whose workers are building Montreal’s new subway cars, has nothing booked beyond 2019.

“The order book ends in the next 12 months, in 2019,” he said in an interview. “After that, it’s zero.”

The initial conception of the project has been slightly changed and will now include 26 stations, one less than originally planned, along a 67-kilometre automated light rail network.

Montreal’s REM (Reseau express metropolitain) was first announced in January 2015 and construction is scheduled to begin this April.

Sabia announced that a consortium of SNC-Lavalin, Dragados, Aecon, Pomerleau and EBC will be responsible for engineering, procurement and construction, while Alstom and SNC-Lavalin will provide the cars.


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