Siemens’ Combino Plus Campaign

A wraparound ad on the August 16 issue of 24 Hours extols Siemens new streetcars and refers readers to a website with more information. The layout has the earmarks of an ongoing advertising campaign with cheeky copy:

The Siemens page includes an animated look at the Combino Plus car as proposed for Toronto including simulation of the car on the Spadina and Queen lines.  There is a link to a data sheet on the Lisbon version of the car as well as a non-functioning [as of noon on August 17]  link to a Melbourne presentation.

A Siemens mockup is on view at the CNE grounds on Princes’ Boulevard along with the Bombardier mockup that appeared recently at Dundas Square. 

If you get bored with the streetcars, you can watch people getting fired out of a cannon.  Whether this will be yet another alternative for transit service remains to be seen.

29 thoughts on “Siemens’ Combino Plus Campaign

  1. A similar wrap is on today’s Metro. It would be nice if a CLRV or ALRV could be spared (maybe one awaiting heavy maintenance) for comparison purposes. I admire Siemens’ persistence given their lack of luck in Ontario, although yesterday’s Citizen indicates all may not yet be lost in Ottawa.


  2. Let’s see what Bombardier’s proposal is for Toronto before we make a decision. The mockup they showed off was simply a car from Minneapolis.


  3. I must say that it’s misleading to show Toronto’s future streetcars having pantographs. If I’m not mistaken the streetcar overhead is not designed for pantographs so when the new cars arrive they’ll still have the same trolley poles as all the other predecessors.

    Of course I must ask the question, will the TTC or anyone (ie Rockwood streetcar museum) for that matter be able to preserve the CLRVs or ALRVs after they’re retired? My feeling is that they may not be as popular to preserve like the VIA LRC locomotives sitting at mimico or the SRT cars when they go in 2015 (it’s just that I was born in the 80s so I feel nostalgia for them).

    Steve: The biggest problem in preservation of a CLRV/ALRV is that the control equipment is already rather elderly solid-state gear. Unlike a PCC controller where it’s comparatively simple to repair the mechanical equipment, once you fry the electronic gear on a CLRV, it’s dead.


  4. Quite impressive – a very realistic simulation, giving a fairly clear idea of the vehicles, at least as they would appear to someone not on them. That said, I really hope that the colour scheme seen here is not indicative of what the TTC would go for, irrespective of the maker eventually chosen.


  5. I like the site and think its quite informative, and the video defiantly does an amazing job of showing off the vehicle in a realistic environment, although I am weary of what will happen if we get 2 or 3 of these stacked behind each other at Spadina station :S (a frequent occurrence currently).

    Steve: The capacity of various stations is a matter of some concern. For example, Broadview Station regularly sees mixtures of ALRVs and CLRVs stacked up out onto the street. There may be some reduction in frequency (fewer, larger cars) but the problem will remain, and it will worsen if service improves to handle rising demand.

    The TTC schedules recovery time at terminals, but this is not practical given the capacity of some locations and the frequency of service.


  6. I personally like the look of these trams more than the Bombardier Flexity. Looks sleeker, and better suited for an urban environment.

    Seems to me the bombardier flexity is more suited for suburban style LRT.


  7. Has anybody else ever done an advertising campaign in advance of a major vehicle purchase like this? I don’t ever recall a company being so aggressive and making their case directly to the people before the folks with the purse strings have made their decision. Is this now common practice?

    It’s nice to be courted.


  8. Preserving CLRV/ALRVs – there are lots of them so presumably difficult to repair parts can be salvaged and stored before scrapping – although I still like the idea of CLRVs (maybe with couplers) acting as cargotrams originating from Pearson – maybe that’s my “Swan Boat” 🙂


  9. Very nice looking vehicles — I like the way the doors slide open.

    If the TTC will promise that service frequencies won’t be reduced with the new cars, I’ll hang up my subway hat for good.

    Knowing the TTC though, that won’t happen. Service that is already bad will only get worse with the new cars. We’re better off with cars 1/2 the size being proposed. Can you imagine what suburban waits on Finch will be like with cars triple the size of a bus? They’ll take a bus than runs every 7 minutes and replace it with a streetcar that runs every 20.


  10. Very interesting to see Siemens go straight to the public like this.
    Maybe they think they can convince people to talk to their councillors on their behalf, or maybe they want the public to know there’s another choice beside (the often resented) Bombardier.

    The ad doesn’t really mention that they are bidding for the contract. Given how the TTC ran promos for the “my new streetcar” website, some people could assume the combino was chosen as the winning design!


  11. I was speaking with a knowledgeable rep from TTC (who shall remain nameless) for quite a while this morning. The issue of poles vs pans has not been decided. He also told me quite frankly that neither design, as presented at the CNE, is suitable or acceptable. (Of course Bombardier has stated that the design shown is NOT one that would be offered to the TTC but it’s all they’ve got right now to counter the Siemens mockup – didn’t work!) Bear in mind that if a 100% low floor version is taken there are wheels and motors down there under the car (well, not on the mockup of course) and space must be left for them (which is why the Siemens car has those horrible side seats which are nothing more than aisle-blockers), so current seating as in CLRVs and ALRVs is not an option throughout the car.

    Frankly you would have thought Siemens would have provided a more wheelchair-friendly mockup as well. Great for folks like my wife and myself with some moblity issues, but a wheelchair user at the CNE is not going to be impressed at all. We’ve ridden Combinos in Europe and there are other choices available. And, this type of car loads much better from stops wtih raised pedestrian areas and that’s not going to be possible in most city locations.

    The Siemens cab is terrific, now if only TTC will accept the joystick controller. The 4900 ALRV demo had one and operator’s didn’t like it much (no idea why, but likely not as comfortable as modern joysticks). I found it extremely comfortable to use, but then I’m not going to be operating one. There is only so much that can be changed from standard and no modern builder of whom I’m aware offers a 1930s style set of pedals.

    A good start.


  12. Ha — I saw the Combinos in Budapest Hungary. One turn and they derail. In fact they booted out the head of the BKV (Budapest transport authority) when they kept having major problems with them.

    Steve: For what it’s worth, the derailment problems are supposed to be fixed now, but it would be interesting to hear Siemens comment directly on that.


  13. I don’t have time to comment in detail on this yet, but I’ve been snooping around the internet for relevant information and will pass along a few links here:

    Repeated for completeness, this is the primary site related to Siemens’ public relations exercise in Toronto. Oddly the “Virtual Combino Plus” show in the simulations doesn’t match the version depicted in the mock-up or the Toronto-specific brochure. I am personally less impressed with the style of the ‘virtual’ version.

    A PDF brochure depicting Siemens’ Toronto concept car with a detailed floor layout. This is obviously their big public-pitch document.

    A news article attempting to tie this announcement to Mississauga by referring to Siemens as “a Mississauga manufacturer”.

    “Exhibits” section of the official website of the CNE. Top of the list is the “TTC Streetcars of Tomorrow” entry with a photo of the actual Siemens mockup.

    Subsection of the Siemens Canada corporate site about the Combino Plus

    Subsection of the Siemens global corporate site about the Combino Plus.

    Subsection of the Siemens Australia corporate site about the Combino Plus. There is a Melbourne-specific PDF brochure link. Save the PDF file first in order to view it because clicking the link throws the browser into some sort of never-ending loop. (All file links on this particular server seem to behave this way.)

    PDF brochure about the four-section Portugal Combino Plus. It contains a lot more technical detail then you’ll find elsewhere including good photos of the driver’s cab, the motorized bogie (truck) and the traction unit alone.

    General Combino Plus PDF brochure.

    A detailed description of the special hourglass-shaped, rubber-encased steel springs used as the main suspension between the bogie and car body by the actual manufacturer of the springs.

    Now get reading folks. I’ll return later this weekend with detailed comments and observations. Don’t get any funny ideas in your head that I’m a rabid Siemens fan. I’m most definitely not!

    Steve: Thanks to Kristian for all of these links. I have modified the comment so that the URLs work as hotlinks. This avoids formatting problems with some of the very, very long URLs.


  14. Seeing as they’re promoting the Combino, I guess that means they are aiming for that model for Toronto and not their ULF model (which I found worked quite well in Vienna – and its tight turns and twisty streets)?

    Is Skoda still going to make an offer to the city?

    Steve: I have no idea what Skoda is up to. We will have to see who bids when the proposal call comes out this fall.


  15. I would much prefer the Flexity over Combinos as far as how they mesh with the urban environment. The Combinos look very out of place. I do like their simulations of Queen and Spadina, very nice work from a renderer’s point of view (I do know how to make those things myself, it’s not easy). Sadly, it failed to make it look good and showcased how out of place it would look in this city. Some flexity models have a very similar feel to the current fleet. That said, that big grey one on the mynewstreetcar page has the best look and feel in my opinion – nothing more appropriate than that grey behemoth ploughing down King! Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!

    As for poles vs. pantographs, poles are virtually discontinued in the industry (according to a railway technology book I have). It would be naive to think it wouldn’t pantograph.

    With the TTC station renovations projects coming up and more stations to be added to the list later, including stations with streetcars, I would imagine we can expect increased streetcar capacity at subway stations in due time. If it is already a problem at Broadview today, they must be thinking about tomorrow. It is admittedly complicated, but I can see it possible (at least physically, not sure about practicality) to run a loop on the opposite of Broadview’s platform (currently bus only), but this would have streetcars doing a figure-8 in the station – maintenance is going to love that, oh yeah [/sarcasm].

    Steve: Before the reno at Broadview started, I had some discussions with the TTC about the loop. There are curve radius problems with making it any larger in its present location, and the only way to get more capacity is to grab some of the land in the nearby Parking Authority lot. Considering that we might actually see this project finish in the next few months after years of glacial progress, I don’t think the locals (me included) are up for a total reconstruction.

    This has always been one of the issues that proved to me how many planners don’t actually look at the real world: on more than one occasion, proposals for new services to the Don Mills corridor have proposed terminating buses at Broadview. Nobody seems to bother looking at the existing site and how it is used when they make this type of proposal.

    There are several other locations on the system where the presence of cars in the 30-metre range will pose problems because the station and loop designs are based on PCCs and CLRVs.


  16. A few interesting details of the video…

    510 Union station entering Spadina and no one rushing/crowding to board … must have been the first time, you see, so the passengers were probably very surprised to see the new streetcar
    Streetcar in Spadina ROW NB at Harbord…and the cars are still getting priority and turning left in front of the streetcar
    510 Union station streetcar eastbound on Queen St?…ok that was nitpicking…

    Overall…an interesting video and I must say, I like the way they interspersed the CLRVs with the Combino.

    Cheers, Moaz


    The passengers at Spadina Station are waiting for a Bathurst car which is on diversion. The 510 car on Queen is diverting via McCaul. You don’t expect cars to be on the route they advertise, do you?

    As for traffic priority, that’s the one left turn we allow every hour.


  17. When the new car comes into spadina its obvious that they had their media people go there and shoot when there was no cars coming in. All things aside, I think it’s amazing how you can take a computer generated model and superimpose it in the real world.

    Steve: The other amazing thing about that shot is how uncrowded the platform is compared with what I usually see.


  18. So when will we know who won the contract?

    Steve: Assuming that the tender goes out this fall as planned, the idea is to award it sometime next spring. Of course, the politics of the budget crisis may get in the way.


  19. One thing missing from the Combino specs is the design environment (Minimum radius curves, single point switches, hill grade and onset etc.) These specs are present in the Bombardier specs and gives an idea of what would be required for them to run in Toronto.


  20. Steve

    “There are curve radius problems with making it any larger in its present location, and the only way to get more capacity is to grab some of the land in the nearby Parking Authority lot” – in most cities that wouldn’t count as a problem given the city’s ownership of TPA, but god forbid in this town we kill TPA offstreet lots in transit’s name and privatise the rest to buy transit vehicles.

    A solution to the Broadview loop issue could be to make it and not Pape the connection to the Don Mills line – if that line ran subsurface on Broadview as presumably it would along Pape it could emerge at a portal where the road falls away towards Riverdale Park. Broadview could then be a through station rather than a terminus, with the current Broadview services terminating further north at a suitably spacious point, perhaps at East York Town Centre or at Eglinton.

    The lack of an ROW on Broadview would be a problem but it can surely be solved or at least improved with less expense than pushing a new LRT south of Pape Station. While the lack of a western catchment is an issue, I’m sure we can rely on the City to sell out the view of the Valley to the condo developers, a process which has already begun.

    While I have advocated (somewhat selfishly) for Coxwell as the DMLRT intercept with the B-D, Broadview north of Danforth does have the advantage of running NE-SW, the angle most passengers want to travel – towards downtown.

    Steve: First off, we don’t solve site-specific design problems by re-jigging our transit network proposals. This would be very much a tail-wagging-the-dog situation.

    Broadview is not a good southern terminus (or connection point) for a Don Mills line because it is too far west and connection further south would be very difficult. There are big problems with available road width on Broadview not to mention intersection capacity problems at Gerrard and at Queen.

    “Through routing” existing services over to the East York Centre (at Coxwell and Mortimer!) or at Eglinton and Don Mills are hardly options for routes that now terminate at Broadview.


  21. The Combino Plus certainly looks like a good match for what the TTC has in mind for replacing its CLRVs, although having seen the tram terminal at Broadview Station up close while [my] wife and I were in Toronto last month, I can imagine some changes might be needed to accommodate 90-foot-long vehicles. It should be interesting to see whether Siemens can strike a deal with the TTC once the tender is issued.

    As an interesting and blatantly Heart-of-the-New-West-promoting aside, Calgary Transit is also considering low-floor, double-articulated LRVs for the proposed southeast leg of the C-Train system, in part to respond to tighter turning radii and also partly to improve passenger accessibiilty. The C-Train already uses high-floor LRVs from Siemens, so in the interest of maintaining fleet manufacturing consistency I would suspect that Calgary Transit are leaning towards the S70 Avanto, which in common with the Combino Plus is a double-articulated vehicle, yet is distinct from the Combino Plus in that it has cabs at each end and has provisions for couplers.

    The coupler-equipped S70 Avanto is slated to enter service on the Charlotte, NC LYNX system by the end of this year, and their site has a couple of images of the vehicle on display.

    Keep us posted on how the selection process goes, Steve!

    (By the by, those of you looking for a lower-budget surface LRV option may want to consider the Vagonmash LVS-2005. The specs in Russian for those who are curious.)

    Steve: Note that Vagonmash is not participating in the TTC’s preliminary discussions about the proposed tender.


  22. Steve

    To be clear – I referred to “East York Town Centre” at Overlea/Millwood, not East York Civic Centre at Mortimer/Coxwell. I’m not that crazy – really.

    Steve: Most of the world calls this “Thorncliffe Park”. Every time I ride through there on the 100 I am amused at the pretentiousness of that title.

    As for solving site specific problems etc. – sometimes things “just work”. It is hardly rejigging the network when Pape is merely a presumptive choice – as indeed you keep telling us we shouldn’t be fixated by where they drew the lines on the TC map.

    At present there are no proposals for what would happen to DMLRT south of Pape, and the Pape line is at the east end of the study design envelope so it’s difficult to know how a Broadview alignment might be remediated with some expropriation for the cost of an Pape South LRT alignment but in the end we’re talking about maximising existing track and junctions to leverage no less than three connecting streetcar tracks (Queen, Gerrard, Dundas) to run Don Mills services through as well as the possibility of extending Broadview south.

    As for too far west – Broadview might be two subway stops away but it was a 10-15 minute walk during Taste of the Danforth. Two stops is a long way in some parts of town but it’s hardly a yawning gap on Danforth and Pape is hardly a critical destination point *of itself* at present.

    Steve: “Too far west” refers to (a) transfer traffic onto the subway and (b) the difficulty of a southerly extension. Given projected demand in the corridor, the streetcar lines on Broadview cannot handle their current traffic plus the Don Mills LRT.


  23. I was not impressed by the Bombardier car in Dundas Square. It seemed cramped and to have relatively little seating. I was talking with a TTC official of some stature and he told me that one of the questions facing the commission is whether to go with double ended cars. The idea sounds good at first but boy does it ever cut down on the available seating since it entails doors on both sides of the car. Happily the official was himself very concerned about that. Seating is important if you want to get commuters out of their cars where they certainly do not stand.

    Given the investment in relatively new loops on the existing lines I doubt they would go for double ends on those lines but the new lines open the question up again. Another official on site told me that they were concerned to maintain the streetcar experience such a sitting by windows with a good view of what’s on the street. I found that encouraging. Enough with crush loads etc.

    Riding on the Bloor subway this evening around 7:30 I noticed I was the only one on the car who wasn’t reading a book or newspaper, listening to an ipod or dozing off. So much for the subway experience!


  24. Dave – we shouldn’t get too hung up on the existing network if we’re serious about Transit City. Double ended cars can use loops, single end can’t use crossovers. Residents hate loops because of the excessive squeal and it’s a frequent source of streetcar bad press.

    “Steve: Most of the world calls this “Thorncliffe Park”. Every time I ride through there on the 100 I am amused at the pretentiousness of that title.”

    Gah. Four years in Toronto, two years passing that intersection on a weekly basis and I never knew what it was called 😦 As for subway connectivity I would have expected eastbound passengers from that neighbourhood and points north to use the Eglinton LRT to access Scarborough via Kennedy. My concern is that while arriving LRT passengers to Pape under the existing plan have no realistic option in the event of a subway breakdown, Broadview’s comprehensive linkages means passengers have other avenues of escape! Anyhow, this is getting a bit (a lot) off topic.

    Steve: Yes, it is.


  25. One major difference between the Bombardier and Siemens web sites is I get the impression of a one pony show for Siemens. Bombardier have several models shown, with a good customer base for most of the models. Bombardier also include a considerable amount of technical detail in their specs.

    I feel concern about those outboard motors on the low flow design. Any unbalance is going to show up as rotation of the truck, not good for single point switches. I feel they might make it work on new vehicles with tight tolerences, at a considerable risk of problems arising as wear sets in.

    Hills like Bathurst may not be the only problem for low floor vehicles. I recall noting that the west approach to the Dundas bridge west of Lansdowne had quite a sudden transition from the bridge deck to the roadway.


  26. My concern is that we don’t sacrifice the future network for the sake of a “compatibility first” attitude. While Toronto’s network has enough size that regauging to standard is almost certainly excessive, we should be prepared to deal with some legacy trackage where possible rather than deviate further from a clean-sheet configuration than is necessary. Any Toronto-specific mods are likely to have some bugs which may cause adverse first impressions if encountered by riders without sufficient prior testing.


  27. When is the projected delivery date?
    I visited Toronto in 1995 and new LRVs would be another incentive to come to your wonderful city.

    A Chicago railfan.

    Steve: Very late 2010 for first shipment, more substantial production volume starting in 2011. This all assumes that we actually place an order in early 2008.


Comments are closed.