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.”
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.
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.