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    Bombardier, Italian partner in lead to get high-speed train contract.

    MONTREAL - Bombardier and its partner AnsaldoBreda have overtaken their rivals in the race to supply several dozen high-speed trains to Italy's rail service in a deal reputed to be worth about US$1.6 billion.

    The Montreal-based Bombardier says it won't discuss the value of the contract until a final contract is signed with Trenitalia, the government-owned operator of Italy's train system.


    The contract would introduce Bombardier's Zefiro train to Europe with 50 trainsets that can each accommodate 600 passengers. The trains can travel up to 360 km-h.

    Propulsion and electrical system work will be completed at Bombardier’s factory near Genoa.

    Ansaldo, the rail division of Italian engineering and defence giant Finmeccanica, will build the train bodies and do final assembly at its plant near Florence.

    The consortium and Trenitalia must now negotiate final details that would secure the contract, Bombardier spokesman Marc-Andre Lefebvre said Wednesday.

    Bombardier is happy that the Italian-Canadian consortium was judged to have made the best offer in terms of price and technical details, but it won't discuss details of the contract until the Trenitalia board confirms the deal, he added.

    The Bombardier consortium's chief rival was Alstom, a French company.

    The contract is good news for Bombardier because it helps fill its railway backlog, but investors haven't been rewarding the company for a series of railway contracts because of concerns about the impact of the debt crisis in Europe, said an analyst who didn't want to be identified.

    "If they get it it's definitely a good thing for the company but as far as the stock, it seems like until people get more comfortable with the economic environment in Europe people are going to continue to discount these type of contracts."

    In addition to Alstom, the Bombardier group beat several Japanese company Kawasaki. Germany's Siemens withdrew due to the complex technical specifications requested by the Italian railway group, AnsaldoBreda said in a news release.

    “We are very proud to have been awarded the tender from Trenitalia, which confirms the quality of our products and of the industrial processes that we are implementing, and also bears testimony to the excellence we have achieved through working for major customers worldwide," said Pier Francesco Guarguaglini, chairman and CEO of Finmeccanica.

    A Bombardier Sifang joint venture won a US$4 billion contract from the Chinese Ministry of Railways last September to build 80 Zefiro trains, or 1,120 cars.

    Those trains are scheduled to be delivered over three years, beginning in 2012.

    The trains are a key part of China's plans to develop more than 6,000 kilometres of new high-speed lines.

    Bombardier launched its ECO4 technology package in 2008.


    Originally written by Ross Marowits at The Canadian Press

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