The big boss of Alstom, Henri Poupart-Lafarge, wants to discuss without delay with governments ways to guarantee the future of the Canadian factories of Bombardier Transport, which have just fallen into the bosom of the French giant.
“My first priority will be to discuss with the Canadian public authorities. Not just the future of these factories, because it seems to me that the history of Bombardier, very strong in Canada and in Quebec in particular, requires that we really take this into account and come and present […] our company to governments ”, declared Mr. Poupart-Lafarge during an interview with The newspaper.
The La Pocatière plant in Bas-Saint-Laurent will be practically short of contracts when it completes the most recent order for cars for the Montreal metro this summer. And in Ontario, the Unifor union says it fears more than ever the closure of the Thunder Bay plant.
Henri Poupart-Lafarge, however, assured that the La Pocatière and Thunder Bay facilities were here to stay.
“We are not in a story of industrial restructuring in which we would have to close factories or move engineering centers. Not at all. We are in a growing market, we need everyone. “
Alstom will resume the lobbying campaign that Bombardier had been leading for several years in the Quebec tram file, a contract that could give work to employees of La Pocatière.
Owner of the famous TGV technology, Alstom will also try to convince Ottawa to build a fast train in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor.
Bombardier Transportation’s Canadian factories export some of their production to the United States, but that could change with the tightening of Buy American provisions promised by Joe Biden. “The factories in a given country are oriented first and foremost towards the market in question, but there is also a link to export,” said Poupart-Lafarge. He noted that the Alstom plant in Sorel-Tracy has already exported train components to Chile.
The leader acknowledged that Alstom’s decision to build the Metropolitan Express Network (REM) cars in India had sparked controversy, but recalled that states could impose local content requirements. What the Couillard government chose not to do in the case of the REM.
” I admit that [les voitures], it’s a fairly visible part [du projet] and that’s what creates emotion, he conceded. This is where we see the importance of the public authorities. “
Henri Poupart-Lafarge noted that, in its bid, Bombardier did not plan to assemble the REM cars in La Pocatière, but in China.
“We needed the Fund”
Project manager of the REM, the Caisse became Alstom’s largest shareholder by transferring the $ 3.2 billion interest it held in Bombardier Transportation to it and adding $ 1 billion for a stake of 17.5 % in the French multinational.
“Financially, we needed the Fund” to complete the $ 8.5 billion transaction, admitted the CEO of Alstom.
“He’s a very, very good shareholder, but in addition, he was the catalyst for the operation,” he said. We are very happy to have it in our capital for the very long term. “
The leader assured to have considered keeping the name Bombardier.
“Considering the fact that Bombardier continues in business aviation, it was something a little complicated to manage, anyway,” he explained. If Bombardier had completely disappeared in quotes, it would have been something else, we could have had Alstom-Bombardier. “
Four questions to the new king of rail
Q: How are you going to deal with delays and cost overruns at Bombardier Transportation?
A: It’s a challenge that will take some time to be overcome, so I am both modest and careful. But I think it’s within the grasp of the new band because these aren’t extraordinary issues that would never have happened elsewhere. It is the number of these problems which is very large. So I think that with stability and methodical work, project by project … It will not be resolved in six months, but in three or four years, we can completely rectify the situation.
Q: Were there structural problems at Bombardier Transportation?
A: The multiplicity of difficulties comes from a problem that could be qualified as structural, but which is linked to the difficulties [de Bombardier] in general. […] It is not the technologies, nor the employees, nor the Bombardier facilities that are bad. There were difficulties throughout the group which ended up impacting Bombardier Transportation.
Q: France prevented Couche-Tard from acquiring Carrefour while Quebec helped Alstom buy Bombardier Transportation. Do you believe that borders should be open in both directions?
A: You are training me on terrain that is beyond me. It is true that these are difficult subjects. Indeed, we need rules of the game that are clear and that are shared by all.
Q: Will the heavy trend of teleworking that the pandemic has accelerated affect the demand for public transport?
A: We are very optimistic about the market. Our children and our grandchildren are going to say: “How could we accept to crowd 10, 20 or 30 in small spaces, in the subways? ” […] I don’t think we will accept it forever. It will therefore be necessary to streamline traffic and increase capacity. It is not teleworking that will limit the need for the number of trains.