Bombardier to use technology developed here in London subway


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Bombardier Transportation recently won a $577 million contract to upgrade the signaling system for London Underground in the United Kingdom with technology that was developed at its plant in West Mifflin.

"It is one of the largest orders we've ever been awarded anywhere in the world," said Dave Barry, vice president of the company's systems division in North America.

While the London subway project is the single biggest deal to come out of the international transportation company's Pittsburgh operation in the past year, the plant here is also developing automated train systems in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Atlanta.

Overall, Bombardier is a global company involved in airplane and rail transportation.

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The company has about 35,000 employees worldwide with 823 workers in its Pittsburgh division, which originally started as a Westinghouse company about four decades ago. The facility in West Mifflin employs 600 workers while 223 Bombardier employees are assigned to work at the nearby Allegheny County Airport, also in West Mifflin.

Bombardier's worldwide headquarters is in Berlin, Germany, while its corporate headquarters is in Montreal, Canada. The Pittsburgh operation mainly develops rail systems, working with cities and private developers that want to build railways and supplying them with trains, tracks, power supply, propulsion, signaling and communications systems.

The full scope of the London Underground project calls for new signaling and an automatic train control system for four underground train lines that will carry 1.3 million passengers a day. The Pittsburgh facility will provide much of the product supply and associated engineering work.

"This site has always been focused beyond the horizons of just the United States or North America," said Mr. Barry, a South Side resident who has worked at the Pittsburgh facility for 21 years.

"Over the decades, we have done business in Singapore, Rome, Madrid and Frankfurt. Now we are starting to develop more business in Latin America, from Mexico to Santiago."

The company culture is very internationally focused.

Bombardier employees in the Pittsburgh area hail from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Many are German, Swiss, Swedish, Latin American, British and Irish. Some were transferred to Pittsburgh from other sites and some were hired from the Pittsburgh area, the company said.

While the plant at headquarters in Berlin specializes in developing airplanes, the Pittsburgh site is all about train systems -- driverless people movers found in many modern airports and high-speed rail systems.

"We are following closely the developments of high-speed rail in North America," Mr. Barry said. "We also are working closely with a development in Las Vegas to contract a new high-speed railway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

"The project is not in construction yet, but it is developing nicely."


Tim Grant: tgrant@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1591.


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