(Only) Bombardier Bids for New TTC Streetcars (Updated)

According to the TTC’s Materials & Procurement website late on the evening of July 1, there was only one bidder, Bombardier, for Toronto’s new generation of streetcars and, by extension, the cars that will be used for the Transit City network.

There are no details about the bid, and an announcement from the TTC is expected soon.  I will add to this post as information becomes available.

Updated July 2, 12:30pm:  The TTC amended its site to indicate that there was a second bidder, Tram Power of the UK.  This is a company that has never built a production run of vehicles for anyone, and I cannot see them being in any condition to support a bid of this size.  One other issue with their car (as described on their website) is that it is 70% low floor, not 100% as required by the TTC.

Matthew Campbell writes about this in today’s Globe and Mail.

33 thoughts on “(Only) Bombardier Bids for New TTC Streetcars (Updated)

  1. Steve have you got any pic’s of what Bombardier is offering? I hope it is a low floor streetcar.

    Steve: No details of the bid are available yet.


  2. Hi Steve – the website has been updated. There are two bidders – Bombardier and TRAM Power.

    Brad Ross

    Steve: The second bidder, Tram Power UK, looks like a small scale operation and I can’t see how they would have the resources to engage in a contract of this size. We will have to see what the TTC’s evaluation brings.

    Also, the info on their site indicates that their car is 70% low floor contrary to the TTC’s 100% requirement.


  3. Hopefully the TC cars, being more “standard” (assuming TTC don’t build in crazy gradients and curves to match the city network) might attract more bidders who don’t fancy investing a large amount of design changes into a 200-car order. It would be nice to think that an major manufacturer like Alstom or Siemens could locate a plant in one of the many auto sector regions with large numbers of skilled employees if Ontario and other provinces invested enough in light rail to keep both Bombardier and one or more alternatives busy.


  4. I guess this means that the joint venture between Vossloh Kiepe and a local manufacturing company had withdrawn from the bidding process as well at an earlier date. The last I’d heard was that the Kiepe people approached the TTC about allowing for mixed high/low floor streetcars as opposed to 100% low floor.

    Now I guess we’ll have to wait for the formal awarding of the contract and funding to pay for it to be announced.


  5. It’s very curious that Tram Power bothered to submit a noncompliant bid, since this would normally eliminate their bid very early in the evaluation process. I wonder if they were hoping that other bidders would also be noncompliant.


  6. If 204 (+ 364) ± are not industrial standard, could they be a standard that other transit systems may be interested for their cities. They could be a on-road standard.

    Waterloo’s and Peel’s LRT (maybe) could be using the industries’ off-road or wide-road standards, however Montreal may want to use their expected fleet on the street and may want to use on-road or narrow-road standards similar to Toronto request.


  7. I was under the imprecation [impression?] that Siemens had already won the contract…. Which in a way bothered me knowing that with an ailing economy we could make the order in our own backyard by a company who manufactures a superior product to begin with (Bombardier).


  8. This has gone too far. The TTC won’t deal outside of Bombardier, except for companies who claim their trams are cheaper to own and run. Thanks to NCarlson for the link. I wonder why their tram caught fire … shabby construction more then anything. But I will say this, a 125 ft streetcar sounds pretty damn good for mixed traffic operation. On transit city we could couple two of these together and run them every six mins. to pad surge ridership.


  9. John, Siemens certainly ran an advertising campaign last summer that may have created the impression that they had won and their model would be Toronto’s next streetcar. One has to wonder if they may have had a backlash against that campaign that may have led to their decision not to bid.


  10. @John,

    How can you say that Bombardier manufactures a superior product? Have you ridden both? Are you an expert? Or is it because you believe that instead getting the best product our tax dollars can buy, we should give people who might not otherwise get the contract the work.

    I’m not an expert on LRVs, but from what I did see the Siemens LRV looked like a much more pleasant riding experience than what Bombardier put on display.


  11. @Mike,

    The Bombardier model on display was a 70% low floor model designed specifically for Minneapolis, but based off Bombardier’s Flexity Swift model. It is unlikely you will see that model in Toronto. I do not know if TTC is going to build from scratch, or modify an existing model, but Bombardier offers more than one model, and their Flexity Outlook Cityrunner model is 100% Low floor, and specifically engineered for legacy streetcar lines. And they look good, and seem to be popular in Europe.
    So, do not base your opinion on just that display.

    And what is wrong with Toronto choosing to deal with Bombardier only? I still do understand what the big deal is, considering that Bombardier has proven themselves with the T-1s.


  12. I am wondering what the public perception will be: either they really won’t give a damn, or they will think that Bombardier had it in the bag from the beginning (or nearly so, as the conspiracy-minded would suspect that the specs change partway through resulted in some minor point that made Bombardier the defacto winner).

    That aside, I am surprised that Siemens did not bid, given the funds they spent to reach out to the public and the fact that the Combino Plus is one of the few 100% low floor LRVs with pivoting trucks. Although I cannot comment on the Combino Plus itself, I have ridden Combino cars in Melbourne (both 20 metre 3-section and 30 metre 5-section units) and found they would certainly do well in Toronto given our tight corners and hilly terrain. I don’t know if single-blade switches or if trolley pole installation would have been a problem that prevented their bid.

    As for Bombardier, I do not know what they are offering, but I have ridden on the 100% low floor units they built for Sydney. As a car to ride, they are pretty good, but I cannot comment on tight corners nor hilly terrain. I have also experienced their Flexity Swift models (70% low floor) in Minneapolis and Croydon and they are also well-built models.

    I am also mystified about the lack of Alstom in all this, as their Citadis model (100% low floor) is a good contender as well.

    There must be some hope in the industry that the TC cars might be open to something different than the city cars. Though it would make sense to have a unified fleet for maintenance and spare parts reasons (even if some of the fleet are single-ended initially fitted with trolley poles), there may be some reason to believe that the TC cars will be open to a new set of bids. The TC cars will be a bigger project, well beyond simply comparing the approximately 200 city cars against the 360-or-so TC cars. Given that a joint Mississauga-TTC LRV facility is being considered, those cars will likely be of the same type. To further extend the order, any future York Region LRT implementation will also need to be compatible. I say this not from my own ‘fantasy’ proposal for York Region, but from the EA documents by YRT on reserved bus lanes for the corridor currently operated as the VIVA Green route. When such lanes are needed in this corridor, they will be built to protect for future conversion to LRT, and the documents note that integrating service with future TTC implementations will be important.

    Steve: Siemens just announced a reduction in their worldwide workforce. This is not the time for them to be talking about expansion for Canadian manufacture of a major order.


  13. I think everyone is well aware by now of my opinions on the awful stylings (read garish) and technically ineffective designs of the Bombardier and Siemens products. Debate me on those points if you will, but at the very least the TRAM bid is a breath of fresh air in all aspects of this tender.

    The TRAM prototype actually looks different from the other offerings out there today and is somewhat complementary to the lines of the CLRV. One of the more distinctive features that reminds me somewhat of the Skoda Portland Streetcars is the minimal roofline – it doesn’t look monstrous. It is simple, sleek and effective, and it actually looks good.

    Secondly, TRAM developed an innovative drive system to minimize the weight, complexity, passenger compartment intrusion and servicing difficulty of the power trucks. Much like the drive systems in a number of scale models, the motor is hung from the body and connects to the truck via a driveshaft. It appears that the motor can be disconnected and pulled out through the nose of the vehicle without hoisting the carbody, somewhat akin to the in-their-day-innovative engines of the Avro Arrow. Every wheel runs through a differential gearbox so that they can all roll independently. This provides maximum traction and, according to them, virtually eliminates wheel-squeal.

    While it remains to be seen if the TRAM design functions well on our tight curves, will survive the bidding process for being non-compliant with the 100% low-floor requirement, or will become England’s equivalent of the Avro Arrow, it shows a very different and welcome engineering process at work. I would at least like to see them in contention for the Transit City cars order but would very much like to see what they come up with for the legacy system cars.

    If these guys could successfully retrofit their truck/drive system onto a tram from 1933 then they certainly deserve a shot. It shows that you don’t have to completely re-engineer the entire vehicle to operate on decades-old and proven track systems, a lesson not yet learned by Siemens, and is what I’ve been trying to say all along. I will again repeat that 100% low-floor is a folly we’ll be regretting for decades to come. The TRAM 70% low-floor bid is yet another example of industry wisdom flying in the face of the TTC’s bizarre technology decision.

    Steve: When I browsed the TRAM site, I could not help thinking about the original design of the PCC car which emphasized simplicity and the ability to operate on a wide variety of existing systems where physical conditions might be less than ideal. The industry has forgotten a lot over the decades.


  14. ‘”Whatever Toronto does is going to set the pattern for the rest of the province,” said local transit expert Steve Munro – meaning that Bombardier would also become the supplier of choice for smaller cities looking to benefit from economies of scale.”‘

    I take it that you pointed out (but the journo chose not to note) that this spec is not what the other cities would be buying, or even what is being proposed for Transit City?

    Steve: The elision comes with the observation that the Transit City fleet (part of “whatever Toronto does”) will almost certainly be built by the same vendor as the “legacy” network’s cars simply because of economies of scale. That will set the pattern for the province as a whole.

    Given that Metrolinx is talking about consolidated procurement, we are not likely to see a separate fleet for Mississauga, York and Hamilton.

    Of course, if we are not careful, Metrolinx may derail many proposed LRT lines because their planning seems to be dominated by the Provincial Ministry of Transportation’s love of subways and BRT. That’s a discussion for a separate post now in preparation.


  15. Hi Steve,

    If Transit City is built, will it share a fleet with the current streetcars? I know that more vehicles will be needed, but I’m curious if the plan is to extend the Bombardier/TRAM contract, or will it be a completely new bidding process?

    Steve: The TTC’s report on the streetcar procurement includes the following:

    Form base design for adaptation for Transit City LRVs for improved reliability, maintenance efficiency and reduced spare parts ratio.

    Clearly, the intent is that there be at least a family resemblance between the two fleets, and that implies a common supplier.


  16. Sometimes when evaluating whether to bid on a contract there will be a consideration as to the likelihood that the bid will result in a profit. It’s quite possible that Siemens and others looked at who the customer is and determined that it was not in their best interests to bid in case they won.

    Steve you’ve commented many times on how difficult it can be in dealing with TTC management, imagine the experience of a vendor. I can only imagine what change orders the final product will have when compared to the original proposal. We can’t think of this as like buying a car or house where you walk in choose your options, get told the price, haggle a little and walk out feeling swindled. There will be a lot of back and forth before the cars are delivered and the bill is settled.

    Bombardier has a long term relationship with the TTC and close political allies in senior government. How does one compete with that?

    I’m not suggesting that the “fix was in”, but that getting your foot in the door has some challenges that the “incumbent” doesn’t face.

    As to TRAMPOWER, why am I thinking it sounds like UTDC?

    Steve: While Tram Power may be a small outfit, it is at least headed by someone who knows and cares about rail technology. The OTDC/UTDC was run by people who didn’t understand transit and only got into the streetcar business in a desperate attempt to save face after the collapse of their maglev scheme.


  17. Sigh. It is absolutely imperative that there be multiple bids for transit vehicles because competition lowers the price and increases quality. It seems that even the minimal Canadian content restrictions for this bid are excessive, and that the only way to get competitive bidding is to accept 100% foreign streetcars.

    There is only one domestic manufacturer of streetcars and any Canadian content requirements will scare any foreign manufacturer away. Being an advocate of free trade, I believe that the benefits of a substantially lower price and higher quality outweigh the benefits of creating a few hundred domestic jobs.

    Steve: You are free to make this statement as a free trade advocate. However, when the auto industry is losing jobs by the thousands, any talk of sending work overseas is politically untenable. Bombardier’s big challenge will be to show that they can do much better than the 25% floor level for Canadian content, especially considering claims made by the CAW that a much higher proportion was possible.


  18. On the trade topic, it’s definately worth keeping in mind that the TRAM Power bid would almost certainly be built in Canada given the size of the order and that the company has no existing large scale manufacturing capability. In fact, I would not be the least surprised if TRAM Power were to contract out to Bombardier if they won the contract (they say they are willing to license manufacturing to anybody).

    As for the Arrow, I’d have to say that the British version is the TSR2 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TSR2).


  19. On the topic of Canadian Content I was recently surprised to learn that the Orion buses only have 35%. I thought the reason we had to buy such hideous buses was because the Canadian Content was nearly 100%.

    I am not a senior or differently abled, but I never stand on an Orion bus – particularly the latest hybrids – without hanging onto a stanchion. The brakes seem to grab with every stop and I sure this is not driver error. I guess if I was not holding a stanchion, perhaps the loud brake squeal would give enough notice to grab a pole.

    Steve: Orion traded on being “Canadian” just the way Bombardier does. However, in order to sell into the US market, a good chunk of the bus has to be built there. Also, the propulsion gear is all offshore and this is a good chunk of the total cost. Bombardier faces a similar problem with the Toronto streetcars because so much of the “off the shelf” technology is sitting on a shelf in another country.


  20. I looked up the manufacturers of the Toronto PCC’s and found that that Bombardier, Canadian Car & Foundry, UTDC, Hawker-Siddeley, are all inter-related. They were either bought out, renamed, or subsidiaries. They not only built some of the PCC’s, but also the Peter Witts, as well at the current crop of streetcars, at different locations in Canada.

    BTW. Avro (who built some sort of famous jet in the 1950’s) was bought by Hawker-Siddeley Canada, which was bought by Bombardier.

    Anyone want to ride on the Bombardier Arrow on Eglinton?


  21. W. K. Lis said: “Anyone want to ride on the Bombardier Arrow on Eglinton?”

    Only if it doesn’t end it’s run at the bottom of a lake 😉 Let’s just hope the Black Creek bridge is strong enough…


  22. I’m not surprised that Siemens pulled out of the bid. In the transportation industry, competitors do partner up or get into a prime-sub prime agreement. If Bombardier won, I bet a good portion of the vehicle would be contracted out to Siemens and other Bombardier competitors. Given the requirement for Canadian contents, Bombardier has a leg up on other manufacturers, but the large order would require a lot of manufacturing resouces and it makes more sense for Bombardier to contract out a good portion of the work (maybe the non-Canadian content?) to Siemens and others.


  23. I think there is a wee bit of bait and switch here. The TC cars were supposed to be *significantly* different from the C/ALRV replacement cars. I can’t wait to see the spec that finally arises – double door double end versions of the downtown cars and hey why not have crazy radii and gradients too just to ensure we shut out the competition. Then all we need is a single safety fault requiring fleet grounding common to both fleets and we are entirely screwed. (In fact we might already be heading down this road with the homogenisation of the bus fleet.)

    A GTAH-wide order for LRVs would be huge. Bombardier and others should be offering a car optimised for that and not compromised by the requirements of downtown trackage not to mention trolley pole compatibility. The downtown order of 204 is larger than many entire systems and should not need extra scale.

    Finally, I would again say that Thunder Bay should not be the assumed site to build our streetcars. We have a huge number of people in the GTA losing their jobs in a skill sector suited to LRV construction, so this is not a time to be using GTA tax dollars as a subsidy to Northern Ontario, given that an LRV line is not pre-existing there, not to mention the greenhouse gases to ship thousands of tonnes of finished vehicles 1400km to Toronto.


  24. Is “25% Canadian Content” defined based on cost or some other means?

    I am thinking of an episode of CBC’s Marketplace this past season where they dealt with products featuring “Product of Canada” on their labels. To say this, they must have at least 50% Canadian content, but that is based on cost and value added. Believe it or not, a fish caught by Russian fishermen, processed and frozen in a plant in China then shipped to Canada to be packaged can sport the label “Product of Canada” simply because labour costs for that packaging mean that at least 50% of its cost is attributable in Canada.

    I’m all for supporting Canadian jobs, but it should be the feds (and the Province, in the case of supporting Thunder Bay jobs) who should fund this effort. Hindsight is 20/20, but the TTC should have came out and said there would be no Canadian content requirement, but this would be subject to change to reflect the same percentage that the feds and province were willing to kick in towards the total cost. This would have shifted the task of lobbying the feds and the province for money to other interested groups, such as the CAW or the city of Thunder Bay or even Bombardier themselves.

    Steve: This is a catch 22. We need to keep control of this project in Toronto to avoid the inevitable problems that meddling and delays with other governments would entail. I am quite sure that Queen’s Park, never mind Ottawa, would happily jetison our entire streetcar system given half a chance. They are still dominated by thinking that roads are for cars, and transit belongs out of the way underground or in buses.

    As a TTC contract, any spec regarding Canadian content goes in at the Toronto level, and Toronto politicians take the heat. Queen’s Park will wind up paying the lion’s share of the cost for these cars and hence for keeping the plant in Thunder Bay operating. On a full cost basis, they can net out the extra vehicle cost against the cost of unemployment if that plant were to close.


  25. The most relevant finding from the RAIB report (repeated twice in the PDF linked above):

    “The condition of the wiring and equipment installation was not to a standard that would be acceptable for a tram carrying passengers.”

    Steve: Yes, I particularly liked the part about the wiring compartment in the plywood box. Also, if you look at the photos of the burned out car, you will see that the cab is not exactly a heavy-duty, crash resistent structure.


  26. How does the timeline for delivery from Bombardier look? If they get orders to replace the subway fleet and then the streetcar fleet, are there enough technical people in Thunder Bay to do all the work?
    And will the metro plan provide enough ongoing work for them? There used to be enough transit systems to keep the plants humming, but it’s been almost 20 years since we built streetcars in Canada. A continuous order/delivery system would keep the plant going and delivery of 2 a month would replace the current system in 10 years, but permit continual upgrades of the deliveries. Then we could think about expansion.

    Steve: I have no idea how Bombardier plans to execute this contract. Wait for the details of their proposal to become public.


  27. As I read the description I could not help thinking about the G series subway car that burned in the tail track below Union Station because a wiring fault caused the acceleration resistors to overheat from regenerative effects from the motors (G series did not have regenerative brakes).

    And the trolley wire over the fire site? It looks like a conventional trolley pole turnout with fittings for pantograph use!


  28. I had a chatty streetcar driver the other night, who offered that from what he’s hearing – not sure exactly what his grapevine is – the infrastructure of tracks and electrics would need to be overhauled to support any new vehicles. He said that the rails and beds are rated to support 40 tons, and that “the new vehicles” will be 50 tons empty; he claimed that the overhead wires would need to be replaced to support pantographs (would it not be simpler to stick straight poles on the vehicles?) and that the current wiring is rated for much lower amperage than “the new vehicles” would require. I place “new vehicles” inside quotes, as I wasn’t aware that anything was written in stone as of yet… and mind you, he didn’t know the word “pantograph”, I had to help him with that one… but still, I don’t know if it’s just internal company rumors, of if there’s something to it – thought I’d put it out there and see if anyone has anything to say about it. Any thoughts Steve?

    Steve: Some of this is sort of true, some not.

    First off, the issue is not the weight of the vehicle, but the load placed on the trackbed per axle, and to a lesser extent per truck. A longer car is going to weigh more than a short one, but its weight will be spread over three trucks and six axles rather than 2 and 4 respectively for a CLRV. The roadbeds built in the last ten years are quite robust with completely new foundations and steel ties, not like the crap that was going into the ground up to about 1993 with untreated wooden ties that quickly rotted inside the concrete.

    As for the overhead, you may have seen some of the fittings on St. Clair and on Fleet Street. These are the new standard, and they are pantograph compatible. Intersections are quite another matter.

    As for amperage, the TTC claims that they will address this with longer trolley shoes giving more contact area in effect, the same benefit as the double contact of a pantograph. We shall see just how workable that is.

    The TTC should have started using pantograph compatible fittings years ago, but they really have been dragging their feet and continued to use hangars in the form of an inverted U which don’t work with pans at all. Now they have to play catch up.


  29. Dear Steve,
    I hope I may be permitted to contribute to this debate, bearing in mind that as one of the two bidders for the new streetcars, we are not allowed to lobby but we can provide information and clarification. Your various contributors have expressed surprise that a small British Company should bid. Obviously we only did so because our product is technically advanced, and yes the development programme over ten years was inspired by the thoroughness of the PCC. We also have in place production capacity and have bids outstanding in some five other countries, with the expectation of a confirmation for 60 cars shortly. We are offering to have up to 50% Canadian content and have had discussions with companies in the Burlington area as subcontractors.

    Our bid is also about half the budgeted figure of $1200million. The difference could be used to complete early some of the extensions being planned, and discussed on your web Site.

    TTC are proposing to offer 3% ($36million) to allow three demonstration streetcars to be tested for 2 years. TRAM Power would like to float the idea that the $36million be split between the two bidders. For our $18million we would offer at least 6 streetcars. This would allow an on street evaluation of the two types, let passengers and operators give their views, and still allow the new fleet to be delivered from 2012. We can start deliveries within 6 months of contract.

    Independent power measurements by Manchester University on the City Class vehicle when it operated in Blackpool showed an average of 1kWh/km, less than energy needed for a small saloon car. It also compares to typically 4kWh/km of other contemporary streetcars with a capacity of 200 passengers. Part of the reason for this economy is the use of advanced power electronics.

    The City Class has been designed to climb 10% gradients and has been tested on 8%, and turn through 12m curves. We have seen the detailed track plans for Toronto. The tightest curves are in the depots, where the slowest running takes place.

    Finally the purpose of extended prototype running was to get out of the way all the possible risks. When the production vehicle is carrying passengers we know it is safe. As a little comparison in Britain nearly 300 motor cars catch fire every day.
    Lewis Lesley
    Technical DIrector,
    TRAM Power Ltd.


  30. I am concerned about even the “new” Technology for our LRT tracks. There are sections that are starting to crumble that were built between 5-10 years ago. Dundas West station, coming out to go south, the cement between this curve has cracked through the turn. The Bathurst Queen Intersection was redone 10 years ago and again last year. Wolseley Loop has been cracking and if I am not mistaken, patched up a few times in between. This track was also replaced 10 years ago. Queen from just east of Victoria street to Jarvis needs to be replaced, including the Church/Queen intersection. This was also done 10 years ago.

    Steve: For some reason, a short section between Church and Jarvis was not rebuilt when the last major track job passed through this area, and it is now falling apart. The intersection at Church will be redone this year using the new resilient track bed technology.

    Queen and Coxwell has also had repair work and it is 9 years old. The Queen east car house tracks from Queen to Connaught are also 10 years old and they have been patched up a few times also. There are more and if want pics I can provide them. We have been told that the new LRT cars would be lighter not 10 tonnes heavier. No matter how much you change the ties and add rubber along the rail, cement is cement and therefore it will crack and buckle, regardless. Replacing track and cement every 15 years is unacceptable and expensive. I am not convinced with this new way of track installation.

    I also Like Lewis’s statement regarding the Tram power cars. I would give them a chance and a good one at that. If they say they can provide a quality light LRT for a fraction of the cost, with 50% Canadian content, that’s great. Bombardier can continue to build our subway fleet since we will need more of those very soon. There is enough for both companies to benefit instead of Bombardier always hording.


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