Bombardier to lay off 145 workers in La Pocatière over Metro car production stall

The production of the new AZUR cars for the Montreal Metro has ground to a halt at Bombardier's plant in La Pocatière, Que., forcing the temporary layoff of 145 employees.

Rail-car manufacturer still expects to deliver all cars to STM by 2018 deadline

Between 145 and 430 will be temporarily laid off starting in April at Bombardier's Bas-Saint-Laurent factory. (Radio-Canada)

The production of the new AZUR cars for the Montreal metro has ground to a halt at Bombardier's assembly plant in La Pocatière, Que., forcing the temporary layoff of 145 employees.

Bombardier says Alstom, its supplier, hasn't been able to deliver a key software component.

Marc-André Lefebvre, a spokesman for the company, said 40 cars have already been completed. 

One train is undergoing testing at night on the track in Montreal, and a second is being tested in La Pocatière.

However, Lefebvre said until the software can be installed, no more work can be done.

"It's the automatic train control software that operates some of the key elements of the train, and that element is necessary to continue testing," Lefebvre said. "If we don't continue testing, then we can't go into production of the vehicle itself." 

Lefebvre says the employees will be laid off from April until the end of October.

STM, elected officials concerned

The Montreal transit agency, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), ordered the new cars for its orange line at the end of 2010, and there have already been two major delays.

“We are worried by this situation,” said STM president Philippe Schnobb, adding that the Bombardier-Alstom consortium’s layoffs take effect on April 28.

“We will continue to carefully maintain MR-63 cars that, despite their age, have experienced in 2014 their best year in terms of reliability, but it is clear that we relied on the commissioning of AZUR cars to increase our service.”

The STM expects to replace its 336 MR63 cars with 468 AZUR cars by 2018. The replacements were scheduled to begin in 2015. 

Its MR73 cars, which first started running during the 1976 Olympics, will remain on the tracks until 2036. These cars will be moved to the green line.

In a joint statement, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and Quebec Transport Minister Robert Poëti call the situation “deplorable.”

“We ask the consortium to make every effort to correct the situation as soon as possible,” their statement said.

Projet Montréal opposition councillor Sylvain Ouellet said it's time the STM forced the Bombardier-Alstom consortium to pay penalties.

"It’s the second delay. At first the STM decided not to apply the penalties. Now it’s the second delay, which will be six months. I think it’s time they look at applying penalties," he said.

Lefebvre says Bombardier still expects to deliver the first trains on time, at the end of this year, and to complete the entire order by the end of 2018, as scheduled.​

He said the issue of penalties will be settled only at the end of the project.

Some 220 workers will remain on the assembly line in La Pocatière, fulfilling other contracts for subway cars for Toronto, New York City and San Francisco.