Bombardier unveils first of the new Azur metro cars
The first set of the new Azur metro cars rolled off the assembly line at a Bombardier plant in La Pocatiere Monday, celebrated by politicians and factory workers with a flashy unveiling ceremony.
Premier Pauline Marois and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre were on hand to mark the occasion, pausing for photos before being whisked off the one-kilometre test track where the new train is being tested 24 hours per day at a top speed of 72.4 kilometres per hour -- with testing being done on the brakes as well.
The hope is that the new trains will restore both pride and punctuality to Montreal's glitch-prone metro.
The control car features a brushed-steel front that fades into a blue and silver paint scheme running along the rest of the nine cars, reminiscent of the current trains running in the city of Montreal's metro system.
The new trains, which are nine cars long, will let passengers move from car to car, and the wider doors will make it easier for wheelchair users to get in and out of the cars. The cars also promise a smoother ride, better ventilation, improved lighting, and room for more passengers.
"The seats are comfortable; I tried them," said Marois. "The side seats even have armrests."
It's been a long time coming for the new trains, which will replace some cars that have been rolling on the metro's tracks for more than 40 years.
The STM first put out a call for tenders in 2006, asking for 340 rubber-wheeled metro cars with an option for 130 more, and awarded the contract to Bombardier.
But French manufacturer Alstom objected and won a court case, forcing the STM to re-open the bidding process in 2008.
The STM decided at that point to change its demands and ask companies to build up to 1,000 metro cars.
Following two more years of battles the Charest government passed a bill that forced the STM to buy metro cars from a Bombardier-Alstom consortium, without completing the tendering process, at a cost of $1.9 million each. The project, though a product of the Charest government's law, fits nicely into Marois's plan to boost electroc vehicles and Quebec jobs.
Spanish company CAF and China-based Zhuzhou, which said they could build the train cars for less than half that price, complained that the bid was not open long enough for competitors to be notified.
That said, the trains will finally start rolling soon.
"Montrealers have reason to be impatient over getting the new metro," said Marois, who said she sees the new metro cars as part of her plan for energy independence.
The first Azur trains should start rolling on the metro's Orange Line in late 2014. The 51 other train sets are due by 2018.