TTC keeps reports about Scarborough RT safety secret from the public
Reports from Bombardier and two consultants about extending the life of SRT trains while the subway extension is built are subject to nondisclosure agreement.
May 2, 2018
The TTC hired consultants to provide expert advice on safely operating the Scarborough RT beyond its expected life until a planned subway extension can be opened.
But that advice, and the outlook on the SRT’s life expectancy, are being kept secret from the public.
TTC spokesperson Brad Ross says the transit agency signed a nondisclosure agreement that prevents it from publishing reports referenced in an update to the TTC board to be discussed May 8.
That board report recommends increasing the contract amount by $5.3 million to complete “urgently required” repairs to the entire fleet of trains. The trains’ undercarriage wheel assemblies, the report notes, are already past their “design life,” but the trains are expected to stay in operation until at least 2026 when a one-stop subway extension is expected to be finished.
That contentious $3.35-billion extension has yet to be approved by council for construction.
Without the SRT operating during the construction period, commuters would be left to take buses.
In 2017, the TTC reported it had discovered corrosion issues with the SRT trains that could cause “catastrophic” structural failures if not addressed.
Bombardier Transportation, which now owns the SRT technology, was hired to provide “expert advice of how to safely operate the SRT past end of life,” the new board report says. The transportation company is testing for “hidden cracks on key structural components” and to come up with a plan to keep the train cars in service.
WSP Canada Inc. was hired to “provide oversight” of that work. A second consultant, CH2MH, was hired “to review Bombardier Transportation’s original analysis, findings and recommendations.”
When the Star asked to review work from Bombardier and the two consultants, which was not included with the publicly posted board report, Ross said it could not be provided because the TTC signed a nondisclosure agreement.
When asked why the public agency would agree to keep work concerning the safe operation of a transit line confidential, Ross said it agreed to nondisclosure in order to release design data to third parties for review.
“The work contained in the reports was provided to the TTC by the vendors with (a nondisclosure agreement) as it contains valuable information usable by other owners of similar vehicles,” Ross said in an email.
Bombardier purchased the SRT’s technology -- which differs from that of a subway or LRT -- from the original manufacturer, the provincially owned Urban Transportation Development Corporation, in the 1990s, according to Bombardier’s website.
The SRT opened in 1985 with technology that is now considered outdated. The same technology is still in use in Vancouver and Detroit, Ross noted. A newer generation of vehicles currently operates in other parts of the world, he said.
Releasing the reports, Ross said, would have a “negative impact” for Bombardier.
When asked specifically if the SRT trains will be safe to operate until 2026, Ross said: “Bombardier provided a plan on how to achieve continued operations to 2026.”
Ross said the consultants concluded “that the work being done meets the recommended requirements to extend the life” of the SRT parts.
The TTC owns 28 SRT cars and operates them in four-car trains. Currently, the plan is to overhaul all of the cars, Ross said. Regular service requires six trains and one emergency spare. With cars undergoing repairs, there are today only five trains in service at a time.
The money to repair the cars is budgeted as part of the Scarborough subway extension, which is being funded with $910 million to be collected from a special tax on all Toronto homeowners for at least 30 years. To date, $14 million of $68 million budgeted through 2022 for vehicle repairs has been allocated, Ross said.
In 2013, council scrapped plans to replace the SRT with a seven-stop LRT in the same corridor, separated from traffic. That LRT would have been fully funded by the province and, as previously planned, would have been operational in 2019. The province also would have been responsible for SRT life extension costs and bus replacement during construction.