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Metrolinx abandons court appeal, excludes Bombardier from bid to operate GO trains

Metrolinx said Friday that it will seek new operators to take over the suburban GO Transit and UP Express airport rail services after the current contract expires in 2023.
Metrolinx said Friday that it will seek new operators to take over the suburban GO Transit and UP Express airport rail services after the current contract expires in 2023. Machado Noa / File / LightRocket via Getty Images

MONTREAL – Ontario’s transit agency has decided not to appeal a court ruling favouring Bombardier but will exclude the Montreal-based company from bidding to continue operating GO Transit trains as it has done for decades.

Metrolinx said Friday that it will seek new operators to take over the suburban GO Transit and UP Express airport rail services after the current contract expires in 2023.

The winning bidder to be chosen in about a year will first review the current operations by Bombardier and two other Canadian companies and then operate the services as it quadruples in size to 6,000 trains a week from 1,500.

“We really need to bring in an internationally experienced operator (or consortium) to help us do this,” Metrolinx spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikins said in an interview.

READ MORE: Metrolinx appealing court loss over $770M light rail vehicle contract with Bombardier

She said the existing operators wouldn’t be able to objectively review the current service and therefore won’t be eligible to bid.

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However, Aikins said the winning bidder wouldn’t be precluded from using the services of Bombardier and the other two companies to operate and maintain the trains.

She said the contract with Bombardier is worth about $100 million a year.

Eric Prud’homme, spokesman for Bombardier, said the company is “surprised” it won’t be allowed to bid and is studying the document from Metrolinx.

READ MORE: Metrolinx inks deal with Alstom as LRT spat with Bombardier continues

Aikins denied that the decision to exclude Bombardier from bidding relates to the acrimonious relationship caused by repeated delays in providing a light rail transit prototype vehicle for the scheduled 2021 opening of the $5.3-billion Eglinton Crosstown line in Toronto.

“Absolutely not at all,” she said.

“They are very separate divisions of Bombardier and we’ve had a successful relationship for over 40 years.”

Aikins said Metrolinx also decided to no longer appeal an April Ontario Court ruling that prevented it from cancelling the $770-million contract for 182 light rail cars without first going through dispute resolution. The deadline for launching the appeal was Friday.

“We have decided to move on and concentrate on the dispute resolution,” she said.

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READ MORE: TTC board to do business with other rail providers in light of Bombardier delays

Prud’homme said Bombardier was pleased by the decision not to appeal.

“We salute the decision and we are dedicated to finding a solution,” he said.

Ontario has reached a $528-million agreement to buy 61 light rail vehicles from French manufacturer Alstom in case Bombardier is found to be in default at the end of the dispute resolution process.

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