Bombardier and Fluor selected to build Orlando-Tampa high-speed railway

(The Canadian Press circulated the following article on October 27.)

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Florida High Speed Rail Authority has selected Fluor-Bombardier, builder of the Northeast corridor's Acela high-speed train, to build and provide the equipment for a proposed bullet train across central Florida.

The vote was 6-2 in favour of the bid by Fluor Corp., a major American engineering and construction company, and Bombardier Transportation, a division of Montreal-based Bombardier Inc., the world's largest maker of railway rolling stock.

The only other contractor bidding to create the system was Global Rail Consortium, a partnership with no experience in developing a system on the scale of the Florida project.

The state predicts the railway could cost $2.5 billion US, but the high-speed rail proposal has been decried as a boondoggle by Gov. Jeb Bush and many legislators since it was approved by voters in a constitutional amendment in 2000.

The next step for Bombardier and Fluor, which are equal partners is the project, is to begin negotiations to conclude the contract. The system is expected to be running by 2009.

The trains are to be pulled by Bombardier's JetTrain turbine locomotives, said to have an operating speed of 240 kilometres an hour.

"The time has come for high-speed rail in America," stated Lecia Stewart, vice-president of high-speed rail at Bombardier Transportation (TSX:BBD.B).

"People are searching for choices to move around comfortably, safely and fast. We are excited about delivering to the citizens of Florida a new world-class transportation system that will enhance central Florida's position in the new world economy."

The losing consortium included Lockheed Martin Corp.; RailNet, an affiliate of Mears Transportation Group; and Centex Rooney Construction. It proposed an electric system with a promised top speed of 400 kilometres an hour.

The state rail agency also decided Monday that the trains will run directly to the Walt Disney World resort from Orlando International Airport - bypassing the taxpayer-funded Orange County Convention Center - en route to Tampa.

The authority's 7-1 decision on the route came after Disney highlighted the potential revenue to be gained if the train's first leg followed the Central Florida GreeneWay toll road from the airport, instead of taking the Beeline Expressway to the convention hall, located in the International Drive tourist district in Orlando.

The resort said the trains would carry 2.2 million riders a year who currently are bused to their destinations by Disney. The convention centre could offer fewer than one-quarter as many so-called captive riders.

Disney World also promised to provide 20 hectares of land for a station at the confluence of three major traffic arteries: Interstate 4, U.S. Highway 192 and the Osceola Parkway.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

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