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Bombardier Inc., - a major player in China's booming rail sector - finds itself caught up in a nasty quarrel in its own backyard involving a Chinese train manufacturer alleging that it is improperly being shut out of the Montreal subway-car bidding process.

Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive Co. Ltd. and its Montreal-based associate, CPCS Technologies Canada Inc., say the Montreal transit authority is discriminating against would-be bidders on the contract for new cars in the city's Métro system by limiting contenders to companies that build rubber-tired carriages.

Zhuzhou wants to put in a bid for steel-wheeled cars, which is the standard for subway systems around the world.

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Montreal, which modelled its cars on the Paris fleet, is one of the few cities using rubber subway wheels, which Zhuzhou says are less efficient and durable than steel.

The city has put out a call for tenders that specifies only companies with experience making rubber-tired cars will be considered.

A consortium made up of Bombardier and its French partner, Alstom SA, has proposed new cars using rubber tires. So far, it is the only bidder.

"To have this requirement is to blatantly favour one supplier," said Glen Fisher, the president of CPCS Technologies.

He said conversion to steel wheels could be done without service interruption and would end up in significant savings on operating costs, contrary to some experts' claims that the entire system would have to be shut down for about a year to install new track.

Mr. Fisher said Zhuzhou and CPCS plan to seek a court injunction later this week forcing the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), the city's transit commission, to drop the rubber-tire requirement.

Even as Zhuzhou fights to get a shot at bidding for the Montreal subway contract - which could end up being worth more than $3-billion - Bombardier has been a high-profile partner in major rail projects in China.

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A spokeswoman at Bombardier Transportation, the company's rail division, said the company cannot comment while the bidding process is under way.

In a letter sent last Friday to CPCS's Montreal lawyer, Julius Grey, legal counsel for the STM says Zhuzhou doesn't meet the transit agency's basic requirement for rubber-wheeled cars. Zhuzhou is asking to "radically modify the technical specifications required by the STM, in such a way as to adapt them to its product," the letter says.


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About the Author
Quebec Business Correspondent

Bertrand has been covering Quebec business and finance since 2000. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2000, he was the Toronto-based national business correspondent for Southam News. He has a B.A. from McGill University and a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Ryerson. More

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