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Toronto Bombardier executives met with skepticism as they apologize to TTC for latest issue with streetcar order

A pair of senior Bombardier executives who came to the board of the Toronto Transit Commission to apologize personally for the latest problem with their delay-plagued streetcar order were met with a simple question: can we believe you?

The appearance, which the TTC’s political overseers had been seeking for years, was more sedate than might have been expected given the anger that has been voiced toward the company by members of this board. Previous TTC meetings have included talk about black-listing the firm to shut them out of future orders and questions over whether the city even needs streetcars any longer.

On Tuesday, though, most of the questions directed at Benoit Brossoit, the Bombardier Transportation president for the Americas, were technical. Commissioners sought information about the schedule for a welding repair that most of the new streetcars will require, the number of employees building them and the frequency of mechanical problems on the new vehicles.

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It was Rick Byers, one of the non-politician commissioners who sits on the board, who launched the most stinging question, asking Mr. Brossoit how many different delivery schedules the company had promised over the years. The Bombardier executive did not answer the question directly, prompting Mr. Byers to say that there had been more than 12.

“This has been an unbelievably frustrating experience for this committee but more importantly for the riders in our system,” Mr. Byers said. “All I’m saying is with this latest welding commitment, should we believe you or will there be another dozen revised schedules on this?”

Bombardier chief operating officer David Van der Wee, who was appearing with Mr. Brossoit, responded that they could point to “concrete, specific, measurable actions” that have been taken to address the problems.

The company won a bid to supply 204 low-floor streetcars, due by the end of 2019. The first was delivered in 2014 and the pace of production has been erratic since then. The TTC currently has fewer than half the total it ordered. Last week Bombardier and the TTC revealed that welding problems would necessitate most of the fleet being returned for repairs, a process that will be done piece-meal and take up to four years.

Analysis by the TTC shows that the 204 streetcars, if delivered on time, will be filled nearly immediately, raising the need for further vehicles.

The two executives happened to appear at the same meeting the TTC board was considering the possibility of extending the Bombardier streetcar order. The agency has the option of ordering at least 60 more vehicles from the company, though commissioners remain skeptical and voted Tuesday to seek a staff report on procurement options.

In remarks to reporters after his public appearance, Mr. Brossoit said that the decision about a further order rested with the TTC board, but argued that his company can build high-quality products.

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“We have developed manufacturing capability and manufacturing capacity to be not only able to deliver the quantity, but any additional requirement,” he said. “We feel pretty good about what we put in place to be able to live up to any future demand.”

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