ON March 22 Bombardier Transportation opened a US$5m test centre for passenger rail vehicles at its Plattsburgh plant in New York state. Plattsburgh engineers now have available an 800m outdoor test track fitted with a third rail power supply and two 90m indoor test sections. Among the first vehicles to undergo trials here are the initial cars in the 680-strong fleet of R-142 stock being built by Bombardier for New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority under a $921m contract awarded in 1997.

The cars were the subject of an article in the New York Post on March 9 which claimed that they were ’being built by unskilled, unqualified assembly line workers’ and which was harshly critical of standards of workmanship. Asked to comment, Bombardier said the article was ’overstated and overblown’, but admitted that there were bound to be complications - ’it’s a big contract with new technology, and no-one puts through a project with 680 cars without a problem.’ The company denied that its staff were untrained and said that ’we do extensive training of our staff with 42 or 45 hours before hiring them’ - a reference to the local workers whom it had agreed to employ when it won the deal. None of the problems was insurmountable, and the company was ’on schedule to begin deliveries this summer’.