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TTC looks at its options to put heat on Bombardier for late streetcars

TTC staff will look at whether company could be barred from bidding on future projects as senior officials head to Thunder Bay.
June 22, 2015
By Tess Kalinowski

The chair of the TTC board and its CEO are heading to Thunder Bay Tuesday to impress upon Bombardier Toronto’s growing impatience with the late delivery of the city’s new $1.25-billion streetcars.

But if the high-level meeting isn’t enough to get the cars moving, the TTC is also investigating other options.

On Monday, the transit agency’s board ordered a report by July that would look at whether Bombardier could be shut out of future TTC bids.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, the deputy mayor and TTC board member who called for the report on potential consequences to Bombardier’s late delivery, said it’s one option if Bombardier doesn’t comply with a schedule.

“Typically when we have a bad vendor or a bad contractor in construction we say, ‘You can’t bid. We’re not going to let you bid on future contracts for a certain amount of time.’ My understanding is we may have some future contracts with respect to rolling stock and my understanding is we could tell Bombardier, ‘We don’t want you to bid on these contracts,’ ” he said.

Toronto should have 50 of the low-floor, air-conditioned vehicles by now. But there are only six on the street nearly a year after the first car launched. A strike at the Thunder Bay plant, challenges with the design of the wheelchair ramp and a paint issue were originally blamed for the late deliveries.

But it turned out that the initial vehicles were so poorly built they were unacceptable. Doors and walls were out of alignment and Bombardier tried to rivet the cars together. Laminate peeled.

The draft revised schedule calls for Bombardier to start delivering one vehicle every five days starting at the end of July, said TTC CEO Andy Byford, who will meet with plant workers and corporate officials on Tuesday along with TTC chair Josh Colle.

Byford said that senior Bombardier officials are adamant they will be able to produce the cars but it will be August before they prove it.

“It’s not just the quantity of vehicles, it’s got to be the quality. I’m certainly not going to accept a sudden influx of vehicles. They have to be the right quality,” he said.

Until now Colle and Byford have stressed they’re more interested in seeing streetcars than pursing legal action.

Minnan-Wong admitted there could be costs associated with buying from another company.

“But if we’re not getting anything from Bombardier, then what are we paying for anyway?” he said.

“Given how they’re not being totally co-operative or helpful, one might easily come to the conclusion they’re taking us for granted,” said Minnan-Wong.

Mayor John Tory also said it’s time Bombardier addressed its customer’s concerns.

“I certainly think if they want to do business with us going forward, notwithstanding they’re a proud Ontario and Canadian company, that they’re going to have to do better than this and I hope the meeting that happens this week emerges with some answers as to how we can get those vehicles as quickly as possible,” he told reporters on Monday.