Metrolinx to buy vehicles from Bombardier competitor as backup plan for Eglinton Crosstown

Metrolinx has made a deal with one of Bombardier’s competitors in case the Montreal transportation company fails to deliver in time to open the Eglinton Crosstown LRT in 2021.

Deal comes after tension between Metrolinx and Bombardier over delayed delivery of prototype

An image of an LRT vehicle released by Metrolinx and Alstom Canada. Metrolinx has placed an order for 61 vehicles from Alstom, who is also building LRT vehicles for Ottawa. (Metrolinx)

Metrolinx has made a deal with one of Bombardier's competitors in case the Montreal transportation company fails to deliver vehicles in time to open the Eglinton Crosstown light rail line in 2021, Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said Friday. 

​The Greater Toronto Area's transit authority has ordered 61 light-rail vehicles from Alstom Canada, which has been building vehicles for Ottawa's LRT. The cost of the vehicles is approximately $528 million. 

Del Duca said that 17 of these vehicles will be used for the Finch West LRT. If Bombardier is able to deliver their vehicles on time, the 44 remaining vehicles ordered from Alstom will be used for the Hurontario-Main LRT line.

Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca spoke to reporters on Friday about the necessity of having a backup plan in case Bombardier is unable to deliver. (Adrian Cheung/CBC)

The announcement comes as the latest in a series of power plays between the regional transit agency and Bombardier.

Tensions sparked in November 2016, after Metrolinx filed a notice of intent to cancel the $770-million contract it struck with Bombardier in 2010 — alleging that the transportation manufacturer had missed critical deadlines in delivering a prototype vehicle for the Eglinton project.

Bombardier wins injunction

But on April 19, a superior court judge granted Bombardier's request for an injunction. The move successfully blocks Metrolinx from cancelling the contract and forces both parties to undergo the dispute resolution process included in that original agreement.

By the time the injunction was approved, however, the transit authority had already announced that it was in discussions with an alternate supplier.

Both Metrolinx and provincial transportation officials criticized Bombardier when it filed its injunction in February, saying the court would delay the transit authority's ability to find a new supplier — and, potentially, the opening of the Eglinton project.

"That dispute resolution process could take up to one year, and if Bombardier continues to fall even further behind during this process, it could mean that our transit projects will be further delayed," wrote the transportation minister in a statement. 

That delay would be costly to taxpayers.

The former CEO of Metrolinx told CBC Toronto that the agency can be fined up to $500,000 for every day that the vehicles are delayed for the Eglinton LRT.

'Creative and prudent' solution, says minister

That may have prompted the criticism Del Duca levelled at Bombardier when it initially filed for the injunction in February.

"It has been clear for months that Bombardier has failed to meet its obligations as it relates to other critical transit projects," the transportation minister said in a statement then, citing the delayed delivery of a test pilot vehicle.

On Friday, Del Duca called the second vehicle order a "creative and prudent" solution to a difficult situation. 

He also left open the possibility of cancelling or reducing the Bombardier contract if the dispute resolution process finds that the company defaulted and is incapable of delivering on the LRT vehicle order by 2021. 

The move was applauded by Coun. Josh Matlow, whose ward contains a large section of the LRT route. 

"If Metrolinx is taking proactive and prudent measures to ensure their deadline for the LRT to be running... then I think that's something that's a smart move on their part," he told CBC Toronto.    

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