Categorized | Canadian Politics

TTC urged to look elsewhere for new streetcars after Bombardier delay

Posted on 13 July 2017 by admin

Existing contract with Quebec-based company contains an option for 60 additional cars, but TTC commissioner wants to consider buying from other firms.

Toronto’s deputy mayor wants the TTC to seek out other potential suppliers for the agency’s next streetcar purchase, following repeated production delays to the current order from Bombardier.

In a motion going before the TTC board on Wednesday, Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who is also a TTC commissioner, requests that the agency “conduct a market sounding and prequalification process” to determine whether there are other companies interested in bidding on future contracts for light rail vehicles.

The current $1-billion order from Bombardier is for 204 streetcars, with an option to purchase an additional 60 vehicles.

The option is estimated to cost $361 million, and is currently not funded in the TTC’s budget. Under the terms of the Bombardier deal the option is supposed to be exercised by the time the 60th car of the order is delivered, which will happen in November if the Quebec-based company sticks to its latest revised production schedule.

“We may or may not exercise that option. But our current provider, Bombardier, has a less than outstanding record of delivery,” said Minnan-Wong in an interview.

He said seeking out other potential suppliers now “gives us the opportunity to make an informed, educated choice.” He warned that if the TTC doesn’t test the market early, “we could be in a situation where the commission might say, we don’t have time to go out to the marketplace to see if there are other companies out there.”

TTC CEO Andy Byford said he supports Minnan-Wong’s motion. “I think it makes sense to keep our options open,” he said.

Byford said that despite cooling ridership growth, the agency still expects it will need the extra cars to cope with future transit demand. The additional 60 vehicles would increase the capacity of the TTC’s streetcar network by 70 per cent compared to the old vehicle fleet.

The CEO said that the TTC won’t be rushed into any decisions, however, and it’s the agency’s position that it shouldn’t necessarily be bound to exercising the option by the 60th car. He said the option date should be negotiable.

“I don’t think it’s in Bombardier’s interest to be rigid on one element of the deal when they have clearly failed on another element of it,” he said.

Under the terms of the original contract with Bombardier, the company was supposed to have delivered roughly 130 of the new cars by now. Instead the TTC has just 39.

The cars the agency does have are also not yet meeting reliability targets, but the TTC is confident that their performance will improve by the time the order is complete.

Bombardier maintains that it has overcome its production problems, and will meet the original target of delivering all 204 cars by 2019.

“A year ago Bombardier implemented an important turnaround plan of its operations and has since met every quarterly delivery commitment ‎to the TTC,” said spokesperson Marc-Andre Lefebvre in an email.

He said that “Bombardier has an established manufacturing and supplier base geared toward meeting the needs of the TTC” and would “be able to meet any future order from our customer,” including the 60-car option.

According to Byford, there would be some drawbacks to running a mixed fleet made up of vehicles from two different companies, but they would be relatively minor. Operators and mechanics would have to familiarize themselves with two different vehicle types, for instance, and the vehicles would require two sets of spare parts.

Once the favoured supplier of light rail vehicles for the Toronto area, Bombardier signed major contracts with the TTC and Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, at the turn of the decade.

But recently the company has seen its competitors gain ground as its production woes mounted.

In May, Metrolinx announced it had signed a $528-million deal with French-based Alstom for 61 light rail vehicles. The province described the order as a backup to a troubled, $770-million order from Bombardier for 182 cars, which has also been delayed.

 

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