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Dec 18,2008 Tri City News

TransLink is being taken to task for choosing Bombardier to supply new West Coast Express (WCE) commuter train cars without looking at other makers.

The transportation authority is in talks with Bombardier to buy seven more cars to add to existing trains, allowing West Coast Express to carry nearly 20% more passengers daily.

“Why am I not surprised it’s Bombardier?” asked Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan.

Speaking at a meeting between area mayors and TransLink officials, Corrigan castigated the sole-source procurement being executed “by a private board, meeting in private.”

Bombardier has a reputation of garnering preferred treatment from TransLink because it is the lone maker of SkyTrain technology. Some in the region suspect light rail technologies have little chance of being picked for new rapid transit lines here because the federal government will favour SkyTrain equipment built by the Quebec-based firm.

“This adds a level of suspicion,” Corrigan said of the new purchase.

TransLink has budgeted $28 million to buy the seven WCE cars and perform upgrades at Waterfront and Mission stations.

CEO Tom Prendergast said TransLink decided against seeking competitive bids because it would have added 24 months to the delivery time of the new cars, which are to be here by the summer of 2010. Bombardier can add TransLink’s seven cars to a production order underway for another buyer, he said.

No deal has yet been concluded, he said, and an acceptable price will be a key factor.

Meanwhile, Prendergast said TransLink is also pursuing the ability to add more trains to West Coast Express, which is currently limited to five runs daily in each direction between Mission and downtown Vancouver.

He said the current agreement with CP Rail providing West Coast Express track time on its railway expires in 2014 but he’s not waiting until then to start renegotiating.

“Class 1 railroads are not the easiest organizations to deal with,” Prendergast said. “The sooner you can engage them in dialogue to try to have a meaningful discussion for achievement of common goals, the better off we’re all going to be.”

West Coast Express carried 2.5 million passengers last year.

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