Bombardier is on course to meet its revised year-end delivery target for the new TTC streetcars, or at least come close. But the company is facing an enormous challenge to keep the troubled $1-billion order on track over the next 12 months.
According to the TTC, as of this week Bombardier had supplied a cumulative total of 118 streetcars to Toronto since deliveries began, which is close to the 121 the Quebec-based company had planned by the end of this year based on a revised schedule it gave the transit agency in the spring.
With more than a week left in the year, TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said the agency is “optimistic” the company “will meet or come very close to the 121 number.”
“We are working hard with Bombardier to have them meet that target,” he said.
But in order to supply the full 204-vehicle order by the end of 2019 as the TTC contract stipulates, Bombardier will likely now have to deliver at least 83 of the cars next year. To date, the most it has delivered in a calendar year is the 61 supplied so far in 2018.
Under a schedule agreed to by the TTC and Bombardier in 2012, the company was supposed to spread out the delivery relatively evenly over five years, supplying between 30 and 39 of the cars annually between 2014 and 2018, and just 20 in 2019 — the final year of the deal. It was to have delivered about 184 vehicles by now.
But as production problems mounted, Bombardier was unable to reach the targets in the early years of the contract. It has revised the schedule at least six times and back-loaded the order, significantly increasing its commitment for 2019.
Bombardier spokesperson Jade St-Jean said the company is confident it will meet the contract target.
“We are fully committed to the overall delivery of 204 cars by the end of 2019,” she said.
“We are proud of our 2018 delivery rate. We produced 2.5 times the number of streetcars compared to 2017 and we also increased our delivery rate every quarter.”
St-Jean said the company has invested $20 million in its light-rail program since 2016 in order to increase production. This year it began producing TTC vehicles at its plant outside of Kingston, Ont., to complement production at Thunder Bay, Ont.
The first car from Kingston was supposed to arrive by September, but instead was shipped this month. St-Jean said the delay was the result of some “minor adjustments” that are to be expected whenever a new production line is opened.
Although Bombardier has increased its production rate, the cars it has supplied so far have not been problem-free. They continue to fall below reliability targets, in part because of issues with their doors and communications systems.
Under the terms of the contract, the vehicles are supposed to each travel 35,000 kilometres without experiencing a problem serious enough to take them out of service. But according to the most recent TTC CEO’s report, the cars’ mean distance between failure is less than half that, at about 12,500 km.
St-Jean said the reliability problems are minor, and Bombardier plans to resolve them by the first quarter of next year.
“The streetcars are safe and reliable,” she said.
In July, the company revealed it would have to recall 67 of the new cars to fix a serious welding defect. Three of the vehicles have already been shipped to Bombardier’s facility in La Pocatière, Que., to undergo the repairs. The remainder are scheduled to be fixed by 2022.
Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr