Bilevel cars for Seattle

Shawn Haigh, a testing supervisor at Bombardier’s Thunder Bay plant, peeks from a finished bilevel car at the plant on Wednesday.

Bombardier has signed two new contracts to build 28 bilevel commuter rail cars with two U.S. West Coast transportation authorities, led by Seattle-based Sound Transit. The contracts, valued at US$108 million for eight cab cars and 20 coaches, will provide work for the Thunder Bay Bombardier plant well into 2022.

There’s potential for more work with options in the deal to build an additional 33 cars.

Dave Van der Wee, Bombardier’s chief operating officer, says work on the Seattle bilevel car contract will begin in January. The plant normally operates with 1,100 (employees) and currently there are 470 people on the job.

“The level of employment we have right now, which is really driven by the GO Transit contract extension — we had 36 new bilevels for GO Transit — that’s coming to an end at the end of this year,” said Van der Wee. “This (Seattle deal) will ramp up in early 2021 and provide continuity for about 300 jobs.

David Black, the plant manager in Thunder Bay, says that timeline serves their purposes to extend work and to acquire additional materials for the production.

“What we are trying to do is to have continuity so we can continue the line without having any break,” said Black. “It is a new contract and there are parts that we have to procure that are different . . . so we need time to get the parts here. There are some design changes . . . and there are cabs and coaches — a mixed fleet.”

The contract will maintain the plant’s current workforce.

(See the full story in the print and digital editions of The Chronicle-Journal)

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