OFF-TRACK Components fell off Las Vegas monorail trains. (Photo Courtesy of Bombardier Inc.)

Las Vegas’ new high-speed monorail is stalled less than two months after its debut due to two separate incidents of equipment falling off trains.

The $650-million, 4.2-mile privately owned system began operation July 15, carrying 40,000 passengers a day between the convention center and eight resorts. The original Jan. 20 opening was delayed after a driveshaft fell off a Bombardier Mark M-VI train during a test run.

The dual-lane elevated line closed on Sept. 1 after a 20-in., 60-lb rubber steering tire broke off in transit. The incident cost Transit Systems Management LLC, Las Vegas, some $500,000 in lost revenue. Inspectors found that crews had failed to act on 149 warnings about unstable wheel assembly. Apparently a wheel-nut had been over-tightened during manufacturing, preventing proper tire rotation. Similar problems existed elsewhere on the nine-train fleet.

Officials replaced the wheel assemblies and reopened the automated line on Sept. 7, only to shut it down again the next day when a 2-lb, 6-in. driveshaft flange fell off a train. The disc-shaped metal piece struck the 750-kV rail track, causing a small electrical explosion.


The monorail will now remain closed indefinitely until the problems are resolved, causing $85,000 per day in lost revenue. Payments to Bombardier Transit Corp., a unit of Bombardier, Inc., Montreal, which has a five-year, $56-million operate-maintain contract, are suspended until service resumes, says Cam Walker, the owner’s spokesperson. Granite Construction Co. Inc., Watsonville, Calif., and Bombardier built the private monorail under a $354-million fixed-price contract. They face $11.2 million in penalties for its late opening. Fines are being reviewed by the firms’ insurance company, says Kathryn Nickerson, a Bombardier spokesperson.

The mishaps also stalled a publicly funded 2.25-mile monorail extension. "We said all along that we can’t move forward on the extension until the private system can sustain itself," says Ingrid Reisman, spokesperson for the Regional Transportation Commission.

Transit Systems Development LLC, Las Vegas, last year won a $394-million, maximum-price, design-build-equip-finance-operate-maintain contract for the extension. Bombardier and Granite have a $336.6-million design-build-equip contract with TSD. Bombardier also has a five-year, $87-million operate-maintain contract. The extension, which has already undergone an environmental impact assessment, was tentatively scheduled to begin service by mid-2007.