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Ontario's Metrolinx transportation agency has placed a $770-million order with Bombardier Transportation to buy 182 light rail vehicles after the province gave the green light to its transit expansion plan.

The vehicles, to be assembled in Thunder Bay, Ont., will be delivered between 2013 and 2020. They are expected to create 4,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The order flows out of a $851-million contract signed in June 2009 by Toronto Transit Commission for 204 low-floor streetcars. The TTC assigned the options to Metrolinx.

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The government-owned regional transportation agency still has an option for up to 118 more vehicles. Another option for 100 vehicles has yet to be assigned.

The light rail vehicles to be used on five corridors in the Toronto area are slightly different than the city's traditional streetcars. They are a little longer, can carry more people and use a different power system.

"This order further solidifies our presence in Ontario and highlights Bombardier's proven state-of-the-art light rail technology, which is available to all cities in North America," said Raymond Bachant, North American president of Bombardier Transportation.

The light rail cars are Bombardier's Flexity low-floor cars that each have capacity for more than 280 passengers.

The contract flows from the Ontario government's formal approval of Metrolinx's plan to build five give transit projects over the next decade.

The vehicles will be used on four light rail transit projects in Toronto: Sheppard East, Eglinton Crosstown, Finch and Scarborough replacement/extension.

Ontario Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne said the program is part of the province's plan to create and support jobs that build the province's future vitality.

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"We know that the Big 5 transit projects are integral to an economically vibrant and sustainable future for a part of the province which is expected to grow considerably over the coming decades," she stated.

Metrolinx president and CEO Robert Prichard said the transportation agency is making good progress on its plan.

"Committing to buy these vehicles is a crucial milestone in realizing these four major rapid transit projects in Toronto," he said.

Similar tramway-style systems are used in Switzerland, Austria, Poland, Turkey, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy and Germany.

Analyst Benoit Poirier of Desjardins Securities said the contract should help boost Bombardier's free cash flow in its second quarter, since it already has three large orders valued at US$2.7-billion from Switzerland and Toronto.

"We expect a positive reaction in the shares today as we believe today's contract announcement was not widely expected," he wrote in a report.

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Berlin-based Bombardier Transportation is the railway division of Bombardier Inc., which is the world's third-largest aircraft manufacturer.

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