Toronto Star

OPENING ITS DOORS

Amid legal feud with Metrolinx, Bombardier invites the media to check on its light rail progress,

- BEN SPURR

In the midst of a high stakes and very public legal feud with Metrolinx, Bombardier opened the doors of its Millhaven, Ont., plant to the media Wednesday in an attempt to showcase its progress on one of its disputed light rail vehicle orders.

Accompanie­d by two representa­tives from high-powered crisis communicat­ions firm Navigator and public relations officials from the company’s Quebec offices, plant employees gave a handful of television and newspaper reporters a tour of the facility just west of Kingston.

In one corner of the factory, its lights blinking on and off, sat the prototype vehicle for the Eglinton Crosstown, which is at the centre of a legal proceeding Bombardier had initiated.

On Feb. 10, the company filed a notice of applicatio­n for an injunction with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice attempting to block what it said was Metrolinx’s “threats” to cancel its $770-million contract for 182 vehicles.

Metrolinx, the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area’s regional transit agency, ordered the cars in 2010 to run on the Crosstown, Finch West LRT and other Toronto-area lines.

At the heart of the dispute is a major disagreeme­nt on the status of the prototype.

Bombardier says the vehicle is progressin­g according to plan, but Metrolinx says it is badly delayed and has not met the criteria of “basic functional­ity” that would allow the agency to sign off on an important testing milestone known as “firstartic­le inspection.”

With cameras rolling, Bombardier demonstrat­ed Wednesday that many of the prototype’s systems were working.

Its headlights and destinatio­n signs turned on, as did the CCTV screens in the front cab. The automatic doors opened and closed, and the pantograph — the rooftop mechanism that connects the vehicle to overhead power lines — was raised and lowered.

“It looks like a great vehicle, it is a great vehicle,” said Mark MacGregor, Bombardier’s manager for the Metrolinx project.

A Bombardier press release announcing the company’s court filing said the pilot vehicle had been “ready to go for delivery” since last October but “Metrolinx refuses to take delivery.”

However, on Wednesday, company officials confirmed the prototype has yet to undergo a battery of tests that it must pass before Metrolinx agrees to take ownership.

It has not reached the stage of “dy- namic” testing on the Millhaven test track when Bombardier must demonstrat­e that the vehicle can move under its own power.

Crucial train management control software for the vehicle is not expected to be completed for several months. The vehicle still has to be shipped to the National Research Council in Ottawa in order to undergo climate tests.

MacGregor said the vehicle is expected to complete all the necessary tests by November. Bombardier says that will give it more than enough time to produce a fleet of vehicles for the Crosstown’s 2021openin­g date.

Asked whether he stuck by Bombardier’s claim that the pilot was “ready to go for delivery” Olivier Marcil, vice-president of external relations for the company, said it was “ready for delivery for first-article inspection.”

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Metrolinx spokespers­on Anne Marie Aikins described the plant visit as a “photo-op” that “does not address Metrolinx’s grave concerns about Bombardier’s ability to deliver light rail vehicles.

“The pilot vehicle does not work. The lights may go on, and the doors may open and close. But the vehicle showcased in Kingston today does not meet basic industry standards,” she wrote.

According to Aikins, the vehicle doesn’t qualify for first-article inspection because it can’t run under its own power, brake on its own, operate on emergency battery for more than an hour or meet other important criteria.

A hearing on the injunction is scheduled for March 21.

In its applicatio­n, Bombardier accused Metrolinx of stalling on signing off on the prototype inspection so that the transit agency could break the contract and avoid paying for all 182 vehicles in the order.

The company alleged that Metrolinx now requires a smaller fleet because since the order was placed in 2010, one Transit City LRT line that the cars were to run on — the Scarboroug­h RT replacemen­t — has been cancelled while another — the Sheppard LRT — has no timeline for completion.

Aikins denied the charge and said Metrolinx has “more than enough need for all the contracted vehicles.”

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 ?? RANDY RISLING/TORONTO STAR ?? The interior of the pilot vehicle Bombardier is building for the Eglinton Crosstown. The vehicle, which was shown to a group of reporters Wednesday, is at the centre of a legal dispute between the company and Metrolinx.
RANDY RISLING/TORONTO STAR The interior of the pilot vehicle Bombardier is building for the Eglinton Crosstown. The vehicle, which was shown to a group of reporters Wednesday, is at the centre of a legal dispute between the company and Metrolinx.

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