Bombardier is setting up a second production line in Lennox & Addington County, Ont. to build TTC streetcars as the company steps up efforts to meet the final deadline for Toronto’s problem-plagued vehicle order.
According to a schedule the company has provided to the TTC, the addition of a second production line to complement the one at its Thunder Bay, Ont. plant will allow Bombardier to deliver 65 cars this year, and 77 in 2019.
That would enable it to meet the contract deadline of supplying all 204 of the cars by the end of next year.
“No revision, no excuses, this year we deliver for the people of Toronto,” said company spokesperson Eric Prud’Homme in an email.
The rate of production Bombardier is committing to under the new, heavily back-loaded schedule would far exceed anything the company has achieved on the $1-billion TTC order to date. The most cars it has supplied in a single year was in 2017 when it delivered about 30 of the vehicles.
The first new streetcar entered service in 2014, and the company says as of last week it had completed a total of 66. To meet its new schedule it will have to manufacture more cars this year than it did in the previous four, and then exceed this year’s total in 2019.
TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said in an email Tuesday the transit agency believes adding a second production line was “the right thing to do,” but he wouldn’t say whether the TTC has faith Bombardier will meet the 2019 target.
The company has “a lot of work to do to regain the confidence of the TTC and its customers,” he wrote. “We need these new streetcars more now than ever. We will wait and see if they hit their targets — it’s down to them to get this right.”
Last month, acting TTC chief executive officer Rick Leary broke with his predecessor Andy Byford and admitted the 2019 deadline was “in jeopardy.” He said the transit agency was working on a “Plan B” in the event the company didn’t deliver.
Ross said Tuesday the agency “continue(s) to review our options around things like supplementing buses on streetcar routes.”
Under terms agreed to in 2012, Bombardier was to have delivered a total of 148 vehicles by the end of 2017. But the company has grappled with manufacturing problems at its own factories as well as difficulties getting quality parts on time through its international supply chain.
After falling behind on the initial schedule, the Quebec-based firm has repeatedly given the TTC new delivery timelines and failed to meet them, earning the company a notorious reputation among Toronto transit users.
Bombardier has said a “turnaround program” it launched in 2017 has been largely successful, but it admitted to the TTC late last year it had to slow production because of “issues in our supply chain.”
According to Prud’Homme, Bombardier executives met with key suppliers recently to “demand corrective measures,” and the company expects its production rate to recover by the second quarter of this year. It has also secured additional suppliers for key parts.
The delays to the Bombardier order have left the TTC with a shortage of streetcars as it decommissions its older vehicles. According to the agency, three years ago it deployed 200 streetcars into service every day, but that number has now dropped to about 150, or fewer if cold weather knocks some old cars out of service.
Last month the TTC announced plans to replace streetcars on the 506 College and 505 Dundas routes with buses for what Leary has described as an “extended period of time.”
Bombardier wouldn’t disclose how much it’s investing to set up the Lennox & Addington production line, but said it will require the addition of at least 100 positions at the company, most of which will be new hires. Operations in Thunder Bay won’t be affected.
The first TTC car from the Kingston plant is expected to arrive in the third quarter of 2018.
Bombardier is already building vehicles for Metrolinx, Edmonton, and the Region of Waterloo in Kingston. Prud’Homme said it has the capacity to deliver on all its previous commitments as well as the TTC order.
This article appeared in the Toronto Star on February 6, 2018. Story by Ben Spurr.