April 22, 2016 / 4:52 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 2-Canada's Caisse to invest C$3 bln in Montreal rail network

(Adds comments by Caisse chief executive and Quebec government spokeswoman)

By Allison Lampert and Matt Scuffham

MONTREAL/TORONTO April 22 (Reuters) - Canadian pension fund Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec said on Friday that it would invest C$3 billion ($2.37 billion) in a new public transport network in Montreal, the third-largest of its kind in the world.

The network will link downtown Montreal with several suburbs and Montreal’s airport in a 67 km (41.6 miles) light rail transit system comprising 24 stations which will operate 20 hours a day, seven days a week. The automated system would be the largest after Dubai’s at 80 km, and Vancouver’s at 68 km.

The C$5.5 billion project, a public-private partnership, would require C$2.5 billion from the province of Quebec and Canada. A spokeswoman for Quebec Transportation Minister Jacques Daoust said Friday the province would invest in the project. A Canadian government spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Quebec’s transport minister told Radio Canada that he would be happy to see a Quebec company like train and plane maker Bombardier Inc win the contract.

But a Quebec spokeswoman later said that Caisse would be in charge of the bidding process.

Caisse, which acquired a 30 percent stake in Bombardier Transportation in 2015, will hold a global call for tenders audited by two experts to ensure a transparent and fair process, pension fund Chief Executive Michael Sabia said in an interview.

He said that Caisse, Canada’s second-largest pension fund, would be begin qualifying consortia in the fall of 2016.

“There is no favoritism, there is no leg up to Bombardier or to anybody else,” Sabia said. “The only way to get the business is by winning it.”

Bombardier, which has been facing criticism for delays in delivering new streetcars to the Toronto Transit Commission, said on Friday it would consider bidding on the Quebec project.

“We are obviously interested in this project and we are going to be looking into it for sure,” Bombardier Transportation spokesman Marc Laforge said.

Caisse, which would start construction in the spring of 2017 to begin train service at the end of 2020, is already discussing plans to operate similar projects in other countries, Sabia said.

Developing greenfield projects as manager is part of a broader goal to raise Caisse’s infrastructure investments from C$14 billion today to around C$25 billion.

“We are actively talking to people in the United States and elsewhere to begin the process of exporting the model.” ($1 = 1.2680 Canadian dollars) (Editing by G Crosse and Matthew Lewis)

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