Metrolinx has reached a deal to purchase light rail vehicles from French manufacturer Alstom for future transit builds in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and as added insurance if Bombardier fails to deliver on its promise to produce rail cars for Toronto’s Eglinton Crosstown.
The agreement valued at approximately $528 million includes 61 new vehicles for transit projects in the GTA such as the Finch LRT in Toronto and the Hurontario LRT in Mississauga.
The deal also means the Alstom-built light rail vehicles, which are 48-metres in length and carries 321 passengers, could be used for the Eglinton Crosstown project if Bombardier fails to produce its cars.
“We believe that this is both a creative and prudent approach to dealing with the less-than-ideal situation that none of us relishes being in,” Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca told reporters at a press conference in Toronto Friday morning.
“Entering this agreement with Alstom provides us with more certainty in order to get the job done.”
Metrolinx claims Bombardier has repeatedly failed to deliver a prototype vehicle on time for the scheduled 2021 opening of the $5.3-billion Eglinton Crosstown line and both parties have been embroiled in a legal battle over the matter.
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Bombardier scored a procedural victory against the Ontario transit agency in April when a judge ruled that Metrolinx can’t cancel a $770-million contract without first going through a dispute resolution process.
“I think the message to Bombardier is look, we respect the judges decision. We are in the dispute resolution process. We have a broader expectation inside government that all of our partners, all of our suppliers who have contractual obligations will of course live up to those obligations,” Del Duca said.
Metrolinx may also on the hook for as much as $500,000 per day in fines, which it will have to pay to the consortium building the project, if delays continue.
“We are going through a dispute resolution process with Bombardier, but that could take 8-12 months, and we can’t wait that long to determine whether Bombardier will be able to deliver,” John Jensen, President & CEO of Metrolinx, said in a statement.
“We are hopeful that Bombardier can get its program on track. However, the steps we are taking give us a safety net if it turns out Bombardier is unable to fulfil its contract.”
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Bombardier said in a statement to Global News that it is “ready, able and willing” to deliver the vehicles on schedule.
“We’ve met each and every major LRV delivery milestone in the last eight months and the proof will be in the performance of these vehicles in Waterloo and on Eglinton,” the company wrote.
“We have addressed the issues raised in the past and we are confident this will be upheld in the dispute resolution process.”
Bombardier said in March that testing had already started on the first pilot vehicle for the Crosstown and the second pilot was ready to ship from its Thunder Bay facility to its Kingston testing centre later this spring.
An Ontario court filing in March revealed Metrolinx had been in discussions with an alternate light rail vehicle supplier if the deal with Bombardier falls through.
Del Duca said 17 of the new Alstom vehicles, which are going to be built in a new manufacturing facility in the Greater Toronto Area, will be dedicated to the Finch LRT line.
The other 44 will be used for the Hurontario LRT but will be transferred to the Eglinton Crosstown if Bombardier fails to deliver its cars.
“We made a commitment to open the Crosstown by September 2021, the Finch West by December 2021,” Del Duca said. “We are absolutely committed to making sure we get these open on time.”
VIDEO: ‘Serious concerns’ over Bombardier’s ability to deliver LRT vehicles
The province said the contract with Alstom is sole-sourced and includes fortified penalty provisions in the event the French manufacturer doesn’t meet its delivery timeline.
“There are provisions in the procurement process that are under what I call emergency situations or circumstances that permit us to proceed in this direction,” Del Duca explained on the sole sourcing.
“When you look at the way the contract is structured with Alstom, we have more assurances by way of how… I’ll call the penalties structured in the contract, there’s more there that provides us with greater certainty that they will be able to produce.”
Del Duca also said he is confident Alstom will satisfy the agreement as the company is currently on schedule to provide light rail vehicles for Ottawa’s new transit line.
VIDEO: Metrolinx’s Crosstown, Mississauga projects could both use new LRTs
However, the minister admits he is unsure how much it will cost to reconfigure the Eglinton Crosstown infrastructure, including the new storage facility built specifically to house the Bombardier vehicles, to accommodate the new Alstom rail cars.
“There will be a requirement to deal with some kind of modification to the maintenance and storage facility and some other aspects, that will involve a discussion with Crosslinks Transit Solutions. That’s a discussion Metrolinx is going to undertake. So we don’t know at this point what the costs will be precisely,” Del Duca said.
“My understanding is that those modifications will be built in a way so that ultimately either the Bombardier or Alstom vehicle could be used, depending on where we have to go, on the Crosstown itself.”
Alstom said in a statement their light rail vehicles, called the Citadis Spirit, have been designed for the Canadian market and is capable of operating in winter conditions up to -38 C.
“The Citadis Spirit is a 100 per cent low-floor vehicle that offers easy accessibility from the street or the curb, and an interior layout featuring a wide central aisle and interior circulation that provide a safer and more enjoyable experience,” the company said.
The Crosstown, a 19-kilometre light rail corridor from west to east-end Toronto, is expected to be operational in the fall of 2021.
The light rail line will consist of 25 stations and stops, linking to bus routes, three subway stations and GO Transit lines.
VIDEO: Alstom to open GTA manufacturing plant to fulfill Metrolinx deal