The order will be an add-on to a much larger order from Metrolinx, overseeing the Greater Toronto area, for expansion and replacement of Toronto's LRT fleet.
The Waterloo Regional Council has found itself actively defending the decision, which was criticized as a "no-bid procurement," saying Bombardier, based in Montreal and Berlin, Germany, was the company able to meet the region's specifications. Regional councillors voted last week not to pursue a request for proposal-based procurement process, saying the add-on order would save money.
"If we went out ourselves, it's hard to predict what type of a premium we might pay for a small order," said Thomas Schmidt, the region's transportation commissioner. Some rail observers Friday stressed to Railway Age that the premise is a rational one.
Local media noted that provincial funding for the LRT is contingent on the trains containing significant Canadian content, something Bombardier can easily fulfill in part due to its manufacturing facility in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Proponents hope the initial LRT segment will open for revenue service in 2017, using Bombardier low-floor light rail vehicles. The Waterloo Regional Council approved a C$818 million rail plan in June, 2011, identifying LRT in Waterloo and Kitchener, with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) running into Cambridge. LRT would be extended to Cambridge in the future. In September 2010 Canadian federal officials committed federal funds up to C$265 million (about US$260 million) for LRT in the region.
The region expects to procure the trains for "somewhere in the range of $4 million per vehicle", which Schmidt termed a competitive price.