Alstom Penetrates N.A. Light Rail Market

Posted on March 18, 2013 by Janna Starcic, Executive Editor

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Ottawa’s planned light rail system is touted as the “largest infrastructure project in the city’s history.” The eight-mile starter line features a 1.5-mile downtown tunnel and 13 stations. (Conceptual drawing of Blair Station)
Ottawa’s planned light rail system is touted as the “largest infrastructure project in the city’s history.” The eight-mile starter line features a 1.5-mile downtown tunnel and 13 stations. (Conceptual drawing of Blair Station)
Ottawa, Ontario’s planned light rail transit system — touted as the “largest infrastructure project in the city’s history” — is also significant as it marks Alstom Transport’s breakthrough into the North American light rail market.

In late February, Alstom finalized a contract to provide 34 light rail vehicles and 30 years of maintenance services to the Rideau Transit Group consortium that was selected to design, build, finance and maintain the first line of the Ottawa Light Rapid Transit system — the Confederation Line — worth more than $2 billion. Alstom’s portion of the contract is worth approximately $520 million.

“This contract is important for its size. It’s more than just a starter system,” said Guillaume Mehlman, Alstom president, North America. “We were very excited to procure an order for 34 vehicles and the long-term service of those vehicles. That’s the first step of a strategy to penetrate the market in North America.”

Design flexibility
Alstom will launch a  new light rail vehicle (LRV) for the Ottawa system — the Citadis Spirit. Designed as a high-capacity LRV, the Citadis Spirit will be able to operate in extreme winter conditions and reach maximum speeds of up to 65 mph, reducing travel time between suburban areas and the city center.

“The [vehicle] will be able to address cities that are looking for streetcar and cities that are looking for full-blown light rail,” said Mehlman.

“Many cities that start off with streetcar projects have aspirations to do light rail,but they don’t necessarily have the funding or political support initially,” explained Scott Sherin, VP, marketing. “One of the things unique about our vehicle, is that it’s the only 100% low-floor vehicle that allows them to start with this as a streetcar, and then, as their city is able to expand and grow into a full light rail service from the city center out to the suburbs, they can stick with the same vehicle.”

Other features include on-board bicycle storage and full low-floor design, which provides a continuous unobstructed interior path connecting all accessible spaces.

“One of the things the low floor achieves is it really gives a sense of space and comfort to the passenger, which is unique in the market,” Sherin said.
Passenger movement is optimized by seven dual-leaf, four-foot-wide passenger doors, while an air suspension levelling system ensures platform alignment with the vehicle.

The Alstom Citadis can run as a single car, or be joined with multiple cars to meet ridership changes. Each single car measures 160 feet and can accommodate 300 passengers.

“We pushed the capacity to a higher limit than what we’ve seen in Europe,” Mehlman said. “Extending the vehicle length to 160 feet and not adding additional cars has allowed the customer to have smaller stations underground and shorter platforms. That has created overall value for the system when you look at the infrastructure costs and allowed us to be very competitive on the total costs.”

Cost savings to the customer are also achieved via the maintenance contract. “When customers choose this approach, they lock in what their maintenance commitment is going to be,” said Sherin.

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