Bombardier blames Amtrak for train problems

Bombardier (TSX:BBD.b)has hit back at reports that trains it provided to Amtrak for its busy northeast corridor are plagued with problems, saying Amtrak itself is to blame for any shortcomings.

Amtrak recently refused to take delivery of the 19th high-speed train Bombardier was to provide for the Washington-Boston-New York corridor, saying the Acela Express trains are unreliable. The Bombardier trains reportedly have the worst on-time record of any Amtrak train in the corridor, with more than a quarter of them failing to reach their destination within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time.

Bombardier said, in this case, the customer is the problem. It blamed the reported freeze-up of braking systems on "the customer's request for a new design." Similarly, Bombardier said Amtrak had ordered it to deliver trains "even though Amtrak knew that insufficient time was available to incorporate numerous requirement changes."

Despite the finger-pointing, Bombardier said it's found passengers are "delighted" with its Acela trains, and said ridership on Amtrak's Washington-Boston-New York corridor is up 23 per cent.

The feud between Amtrak and Bombardier has a long history. Last year, Bombardier sued Amtrak for $200 million US, charging that the U.S. passenger rail service's failure to upgrade track hampered Bombardier's ability to produce and deliver its trains.

Bombardier also said Amtrak had given it inaccurate measurements of tunnel dimensions and delayed critical decisions so long that Bombardier was forced make product modifications and design revisions.

Amtrak, for its part, denied the accusations and accused Bombardier of a "staggering record of failure."

Bombardier's 1996 contract with Amtrak was worth $710 million US.

Bombardier shares fell 42 cents to close at $10.73 Wednesday.