RUMOR: New Monorail Fleet Has Been Ordered For Walt Disney World

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Internal sources are reporting that Disney has ordered a new fleet of monorails for Walt Disney World to replace the aging and problematic Mark VI monorails that have been in use at the resort since 1989.

Apparently, the now-infamous door incident on Monorail Red in early January was the main impetus behind the decision. Video taken by a passenger showed one of the doors on the monorail wide open while passengers were on board traveling to the Epcot station. After this incident, Disney added signs to all the monorails warning guests not to lean on the doors.

The new fleet will reportedly be built by Bombardier of Canada, the same company that built the Mark VI trains for Walt Disney World, and one of only a very few companies in the western hemisphere with the capability to build mass transit class monorails. The Mark VI fleet reportedly cost $3.5 million per train, which would be around $7.5 million in today’s dollars.

The line of automated monorails that Bombardier is currently marketing is called the INNOVIA 300 series. We believe the new fleet built for Disney would utilize this same chassis design, but could certainly be fitted with custom features to make them distinctly “Disney.”

Bombardier INNOVIA 300 Monorail in Brazil

Here are two recent installations of the Bombardier INNOVIA 300 Series monorails, one in Brazil and one in Saudi Arabia. Quite possibly Disney may only need to change the nose cone to give it a unique look.

Bombardier INNOVIA 300 Monorail in Saudi Arabia

We have also been told that the abrupt cancellation of the broadway-style Main Street Theater was necessary to free up some of the funds needed for the new monorail fleet. This makes a lot of sense, since the theater was confirmed by Bob Chapek last July at the D23 Expo, and work actually started on the project in October, only to be rumored to be cancelled in February (barely a month after the door incident), and finally removed from the Walt Disney World What’s New webpage earlier this month.

Though the door incident brought the most scrutiny to the aging fleet, it was not the only incident in recent years that pointed to the need for new monorails. In June 2017, a large piece fell off Monorail Blue while it traveled above the Epcot parking lot. Monorail Teal suffered numerous breakdowns last summer. And don’t forget the problematic automation system that is still not working properly after many years of work, which was a response to the horrific crash in 2009 that killed Monorail pilot Austin Wuennenberg.

For an in-depth look at the history of Disney Monorails, check out our multimedia Back to the Future segment on the Disney Monorails below with video and some great imagery. For a condensed version, have a look at our article from January.

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About the author

Jason Diffendal

Jason has been a lifelong fan of the Disney parks since his first visit at age 2. His biennial pilgrimages during his childhood accelerated into semi-annual visits by the year 2000, when he also Joined the Disney Vacation Club. Luckily, Jason’s bride-to-be was also a Disney fan, which allowed his infatuation with the Disney parks to continue, and ultimately culminated in their wedding at Disney's Wedding Pavilion in September 2003. Early in 2007, Jason began his involvement with the planning for what became Celebration 25, the unofficial fan gathering to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Epcot®. Soon thereafter, Jason met Tom Corless at a pin trading meet in New Jersey, and became part of the WDW News Today podcast starting with Episode 17. Jason has been involved with the WDWNT Network ever since, and can't seem to escape no matter how hard he tries.
Contact Jason at [email protected]

43 Comments

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  • Thanks for the excellent article Jason! While I’m disappointed to see the theatre off the table for now, getting new monorails is worth it.

    One topic you didn’t mention in your article… Bombardier’s website touts how their monorails are driverless. I’m assuming Disney would go this route (Because money), but I am curious how that would work. The monorail at WDW is different from the examples that Bombardier cites (Newark airport, Las Vegas) given the large crowds and large numbers of wheelchairs and ECVs.

    • The idea with the automation work they have been doing for years now was to make them driverless. There would still be a pilot, he just wouldn’t control the monorail. So I’m fairly certain the new ones would be driverless.

  • Since they would be getting a brand new design of monorail car, would they have to fullly replace all the existing monorail infrastructure they currently have?

      • What are the chances of the hypothetical new Monorails being iterations of the Las Vegas Monorails Innovia 200 trains? They’re the same beam width and of similar car width compared to the Innovia 300s that would have difficulty passing each other on the existing WDW dual beam spans at speed on turns (assuming they actually are 12′ from centers). Also if Bombardier is even still tooled to produce the 200s. Otherwise I could see the turnaround on an order being rather long and expensive.

      • jActually, the only thing that matches the vegas track is the beam itself. When the Bombardier INNOVIA 200 Series monorails arrived at Las Vegas, the beam electrical terminals had to be changed/modified. This made the MK IV monorails unable to operate on the Vegas beams anymore.
        There seems to be a concern that the Bombardier INNOVIA 300 Series monorails are wider than the MK VIII trains.
        If you all recall, the MK VI Monorail Trains were built for heavy commercial use, but….. when the MK VI trains arrived, they did not fit in the Contemporary doorway and possibly the other loop hotel ramp areas and it cost millions to make changes so the MK VI’s could be used. Lawsuits were filed against Bombardier, this was in the papers folks, don’t jump on me.
        IF this is so, the MK VIII’s will be custom sized for WDW or The Loop Hotels will have some very expensive, extensive work to be done just to use them…
        As for the Automation, as the disney company continues to change, so does policy. The Monorail pilots were kept because, first, the trains needed a pilot and the guests like seeing a pilot up front in control of the train. But as is rumored that someone would like to take the pilot out of the train. This was long before the terrible accident which happened a few years back. Although automation could have prevented such an event, the lack of such was not the cause. A simple interruption prevention system may have been able to prevent it from happening. There were many many things in the newspapers surrounding events which gave some knowledge to the system operations.
        It does seem that the wonderful lear jet nose that we have all come to enjoy has become dated, and is difficult to put any kind of barrier or a type of “bumper” to try to stop trains if they should bump together, which should never happen in the first place, it just makes sense that the trains will be of a new design with safety in mind.

  • Bombardier is not the most reliable when it comes to on time delivery of orders. We may be waiting a while for these if their work in Toronto is anything to go buy. Years behind in terms of delivery.

    On a positive note, new trains is great and welcome.

  • WAY overdue. We don’t ride on the current fleet. Safety incidents are happening all the time, few get reported. Way past their expiration date.

    • It will with modification (which is needed to even the 200 model, as neither would fit through the contemporary.

    • When I buy a item that has to fit something else, then the manufacture has to agree to make it fit before I buy.

      Their has to be some modifications made to the design of the new monorails to fit the existing rail and passing clearance and especially Hotel clearances for the Monorail to safely operate. Redesigning the rail would be to costly to make it worthwhile.

  • Any word on whether new units will improve air circulation and filtration. The summer hotbox stench of sweat and filled baby diapers does not exactly make one think they’re $600 / night rate to stay on the “Monorail Loop” was a wise investment.

    • No they plan to make brand new trains, but install the old broken air systems from the old ones into the new ones.

    • I’m with you! The stench you are referring to, which kind of reminds me of aged cow manure and hot plastic, is getting worse as each year passes! And we don’t even go to WDW in the heat of summer! I have to pack hand lotion and put it on right before we board the monorail and then breath through my hand-covered nose just to make it from one stop to another without gagging. For me, it is the most “un-magical” part of every trip to the park.

      • I hope use some Disney magic and age them to look worn with mold, dents, yellowing plastic and chipping paint like they do to the current ones. Its as good as the third world poverty theming in Animal Kingdom`s Africia and Asia lands

      • I thought I was the only one that thinks they smell like cow manure since it doesn’t bother the rest of my family. Glad to know I’m not crazy 😀

      • I used to work in a cleaning company. The smell problem is because they are not getting cleaned nightly. What bothers me is if you can smell it, it has to be found and cleaned up.
        We had to eliminate all oders in the rest rooms which meant we had to find it and sanitize it. This obviously isn’t happening today on the monorails, so, unless they get the clean up department to start cleaning the monorails, expect something of the same with the new ones.

  • BOMBARDIER? Nooooooo. I am from Montreal, and trust me…they are not the ideal solution for mass transit. They supplied the trains for the original subway system back in the 60’s. They were commissioned to design and build the replacements. When the first batch arrived, they didn’t fit…they were too big. After modifications, they finally were up and running. Shortly thereafter, it was discovered that the brakes wore out in less than a month. They had to retrofit the brakes from the original cars onto the new ones. Bombardier was commissioned to produce a new system for Toronto. There is now a lawsuit pending, because they’ve surpassed the delivery date and nothing has been built.

    Every 10 years or so, they approach the government for bailouts. If these people actually knew what they were doing, they’d actually be profitable.

    • Bombardier made the existing monorail cars for WDW. I’m not surprised they would use them again.

      • That’s likely when they still cared about producing a good product and providing good customer service. In the many years since, they’ve become an embarrassment

    • You do realize the monorails at WDW were built by bomberdair. They are almost 30 years now.
      They would run and look even better if Disney kept up their maintenace programs like they did years ago.

  • Amy idea when or if DisneyLAND can expect new ones? They usually closed down every afternoon due to the heat in Anaheim.
    I guess the cars no longer have AC-if ever did. Been going there since it opened and forget.
    We had my 89 yr young mother with us in a wheelchair (we 3 being seniors ourselves) and were staying at the Disneyland Hotel. LONG walk back.

    • Doubtful given the DL one isnt even close to a replacement cycle – they were only built in 2008. They may need a bit of TLC but replacement wont be on the cards for at least another 10 years.

    • The Disneyland system is limited by its infrastructure. Its current power bus can not handle the amperage needed to drive an AC unit on each train and in each car.

      Also side note, the chassis that current Mark VII trains are using are the originals designed by WED and built in Germany for the Mark III trains…

  • I hope use some Disney magic and age them to look worn with mold, dents, yellowing plastic and chipping paint like they do to the current ones. Its as good as the third world poverty theming in Animal Kingdom`s Africia and Asia lands

  • Great post!! I’m just hoping Bombardier meets their deadlines better than they have the replacement street cars in Toronto. They are years behind in delivering those! Hope the same thing doesn’t happen to the monorails! Somehow I don’t think it will as Disney has the funds and the need for a quick replacement to ensure a timely delivery.

    • A system using the ROCKET RODS, and as you jet out of the station, DISCO YETI can flash his strobes at you as you fly by.

  • I find the new design a little unusual and hope that these things would be addressed. The new style has very few seats. I understand that is because they are presently used for mass transit systems. But WDW is gonna need more seats. Also these new trains are interconnecting. You can easily walk from car to car. Cant you just picture some over stimulated kids running a muck thru the cars!? amuck amuck amuck! I am happy that Disney understands the need to get upgrades. I would also think that the open car design would cause many additional problems in certain situations.

  • I just spoke to a monorail CM yesterday. He said they just had a meeting about this, and the word is that the Monorails still have another 20 years of life left, and they are not being replaced. According to this CM, they are still safe and reliable. I said that the idea of a safe and reliable monorail that has been in continuous operation nearly 30 years and expected to go another 20 (50 years?!) is simply “magical.”
    HE touted the cost of replacement, to which I asked “How much did they just spend of Fox, or all the global park expansion. They have money, they just need to spend it to maintain and update existing infrastructure instead of adding a bunch of new stuff.”
    Not that this poor chap has any say in any of that.
    But Disney needs to update those rickety old death traps.

  • SMH… The monorail was already fully automated and launched that way in January of 2017. The issue is they attempted to add new tech to an aging fleet. This was not meant to do that. They need to replace but I’m sorry, the quotes I hear people floating are low. New fleet of 12 trains plus 6 additional, plus infrastructure and new guide way to reach new areas is going to come in just over a billion. The timetable is going to span five years from start to finish and will include barn upgrades and station upgrades. There is a lot of tricky things that have to happen here so keep blogging and pushing!!!

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