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Ontario Northland lands $109M remanufacturing contract

North Bay facility will refurbish 56 Metrolinx bilevel cars over three years

Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) has secured a $109-million contract to refurbish 56 bilevel Metrolinx coaches over three years at its North Bay remanufacturing and repair centre.

The work, which is expected to start this month and will continue until the fall of 2025. The job involves stripping the coaches, repairing the structures, upgrading parts, installing new seating and enhanced washrooms, replacing electrical components, and completing HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and door system upgrades.

Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli, the province’s minister of economic development, job creation and trade, was on site at the facility to make the announcement on April 8.

“We've said this for a long time, that it simply makes sense for these made-in-Ontario rail cars to be refurbished by Ontario workers,” Fedeli said during a news conference.

“And we have fought… for years to continue to do that because the deal is good for transit. And it's good for the workers here in the city of North Bay.”

Corina Moore, ONTC’s president and CEO, said securing enough business to make the organization sustainable over the long term had been a “bucket list” item for her since taking over the organization’s top position in 2014.

“When we started our transformation about five or six years ago, we made a commitment that we were to fill this shop — that was the goal, we'd fill it — and we would earn a reputation for high-quality work,” Moore said. “And that is exactly what we did.”

Over the last seven years, the facility has been involved in the refurbishment and repair on multiple contracts, including for 150 Metrolinx bilevel coaches, 24 AMT cars, four Rocky Mountaineer luxury cars from Western Canada, more than 300 tanker cars from Procor, more than 150 CN locomotives, as well as the ONTC’s Polar Bear express coaches.

This most recent contract confirms that the ONTC has earned its reputation for reliable high-quality work, Moore added.

“With over 100 years of repairing and remanufacturing railway fleet, our experience and skill set is simply unmatched,” she said.

“We deliver quality, we deliver on time, we deliver on budget, and as a manufacturer, the fact that we run a railway as well is unique. We are the only refurbishment and manufacturing centre that also runs a railway, so that's a huge competitive advantage for us.” 

Roughly 200 people are employed at the facility, and about 100 will be working directly on the new contract, Moore noted.

Yet this contract also benefits another 30 businesses that supply ONTC with the goods to do the work, she mentioned.

Eve Wiggins, Metrolinx’s vice-president of bus services and operations, said the newly upgraded bilevel coaches would not only help the company expand its services to residents of the Golden Horseshoe area of southern Ontario, but it would also improve the customer experience.

“Working with the communities of Northern Ontario has always been a positive experience. These coaches were first built 40 years ago in Northern Ontario and soon they'll be returning here for refurbishment,” Wiggins said.

“It's part of our mandate to think forward and that often means imagining what the future may hold. And after the ups and downs of the last few years we know how critical it is to act today to prepare for tomorrow. Today's announcement and investments like this one make a critical and substantial difference to how communities in the greater Golden Horseshoe will move in years to come.”

Welcoming the news, North Bay Mayor Al McDonald said awarding the contract to ONTC demonstrates confidence in the city as a good place to do business.

He applauded Moore and the ONTC for their work in bringing the repair business to North Bay, noting the stability and good-paying jobs it provides for local workers.

“You know, there's 211 people currently working in the ONTC manufacturing repair centre, and this contract will give stability to over 100 employees for the next three years, and I think that's key,” he said.

“You have to have confidence that you're going to have a job, you're that you can put food on the table. And this is what this contract does. It provides stability.”