You'd think the biggest maker of light rail vehicles in the world, that homegrown engine known as Bombardier, should be able to build a train that can navigate the tight turns of our city.
Hell, if the circa-70s hulks we're saddled with now can do it....
But apparently not. Or, at least, not for the $1.25 billion the TTC's dangling for the purchase 204 new low-floor streetcars. The announcement July 16 by TTC officials that the company had failed to meet specifications for the new vehicles and that the cars would be dangerous on the city's curving routes raises the vexing question: why couldn't - or wouldn't - Bombardier deliver? After all, the TTC handed out technical specs for the project beforehand.
It's all a bit of a mystery.
We thought the jobs Bombardier promised in Thunder Bay put the company on the inside track when the TTC issued its call for proposals for the contract last summer.
Back then, it was TTC employees, curiously enough, giving passersby tours of the Bombardier model train on display at the Ex. Was the fix in? The TTC assured us it was not.
Bombardier was going through the motions, or so it seemed, rolling out at the Ex an older-generation number that didn't even meet the TTC's 100 per cent low-floor accessibility required for the disabled. It looked like a clunker compared to the sleek Siemens ride on display a few feet away.
Was the TTC blinded by Bombardier or just blind-sided?
One insider says Bombardier tried to saddle the city with one of its "off-the-shelf" trains rather than a more expensive retrofit.
However you slice the claims and counter-claims in this fiasco, the city's been shoved into a corner.
It'll have to cut a deal with somebody fast, within the next four weeks, to be precise. The contract, the largest in North America, comes with an option to purchase another 364 vehicles for the Transit City Light Rail Transit Plan set to be rolled out in 2012.
(Engineering and design studies are already underway for that project. Work on one of seven lines in the 120-?kilometre network of dedicated and fully accessible streetcar rapid transit thoroughfares is supposed to begin in 2009.)
Will the city be forced to revisit its Canadian content rules? It's those that got the only other bidder for this contract, Tram Power of Britain, tossed.
As it happens, the TTC's own procurement rules allow the commission to enter into negotiations with any bidder, even those that have already bid unsuccessfully. Yet the TTC's at the table with Bombardier. How's that for being thrown for a loop?
It's unclear if Bombardier can even deliver on the TTC's timetable. The company has a $30 billion backlog in work orders and has just signed a number of contracts in Europe, where it conducts 80 per cent of its rail business. It's in no hurry, presumably, to fast-?track T.O.'s plans unless the $1.25 billion carrot gets bigger.
The cost of that dream for a high-?speed light rail transit network for Torontonians is about to get much higher. Just who's taking whom for a ride here?