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Bombardier working to fix streetcar lag: TTC boss

Chair of board Josh Colle ‘more confident’ after trip to Thunder Bay.
June 23, 2015
By Ben Spurr

The chair of the TTC board said he’s optimistic that problems with the delivery of Toronto’s new $1.25-billion streetcar fleet are closer to being resolved after he visited Bombardier’s Thunder Bay plant Tuesday, despite both sides not yet reaching an agreement on the increased rate of production.

TTC chair Councillor Josh Colle and TTC CEO Andy Byford travelled to the factory to meet with Bombardier executives and see for themselves what’s holding up production of the ultra-modern rail vehicles. Under the original agreement between the city and the corporation, Bombardier was supposed to have supplied Toronto with 50new streetcars by now. Instead, only six have hit the rails.

In an interview from the Thunder Bay airport, Colle told the Star that Bombardier has made “significant changes” which he believes will help. According to Colle, the company has replaced senior personnel in charge of the manufacturing line and improved parts testing to ensure streetcar components are ready for assembly when they reach Thunder Bay.

“With the changes they’ve made, I’m way more confident than I was (before) coming up here,” Colle said.

But the TTC and Bombardier are still some distance apart on when the company can ramp up production to one vehicle every five days, which is the pace TTC considers acceptable. According to a draft revised delivery schedule, Bombardier was to begin turning out cars that fast by the end of July, but Colle said the company has not yet committed to that target.

“It’s going to be once every five (days),” said Colle. “The question is what date does the once every five begin.”

Bombardier spokesperson Marc Laforge said in the coming weeks the company and the TTC will issue a joint statement outlining a delivery schedule. Laforge would not say whether the schedule would guarantee delivery of all 204 streetcars by 2019, the original deadline for completion.

“What I’m saying is that the schedule will be known in a few weeks,” he said.

Although both Bombardier and the TTC agree that the half-dozen of the new vehicles that have entered service so far are top quality, the manufacturing process has been plagued with problems.

A strike at the Thunder Bay plant, difficulties with the wheelchair ramp design and paint issues have all been cited as sources of delay. But as the Star reported in May, the initial vehicles were so poorly built that the TTC wouldn’t accept them.

Frustration with Bombardier has been growing at city hall. On Monday, the TTC board asked for a report on whether the company could be barred from bidding on future contracts with the commission.