Bombardier Inc. has cut by more than half the number of streetcars it is promising to deliver to Toronto this year, the latest in a series of delays that has left the TTC head and city politicians outraged.
The Toronto Transit Commission has been struggling for nearly two years to get a meaningful number of the new streetcars onto the city streets. It has managed to get 17 into service and has another being assessed, but was originally promised to have about four times as many vehicles by now.
On Monday, Bombardier acknowledged it would fail to hit its latest, and already scaled-down, delivery schedule for 2016. The company is now promising an overhaul of production, assigning streetcar production also to a plant in Quebec and pledging to keep to the 2019 target for delivering all 204 streetcars.
The shakeup at Bombardier comes as the company also seeks $1-billion in federal support for its aerospace division, assistance that TTC chair Josh Colle said should be weighed in light of Toronto's streetcar problems.
"Bombardier's making a lot of asks of every level of government, as we all well know," a visibly frustrated Mr. Colle said.
"I think that's something to keep in mind, how we measure the delivery of this project should influence that. But at the end of the day, step up, make the necessary investments and changes so that you change the schedule and meet your commitments."
The federal government is still in negotiations with Bombardier over what a bailout would look like.
After revising its delivery schedule several times, Bombardier had most recently promised to deliver four vehicles a month, beginning in April. It now says it will manage only 13 over the remainder of 2016.
Delivering that number while keeping to the long-term deadline forces the company to heavily back-load production. If the company does get a total of only about 30 vehicles to Toronto by the end of the year, it will have to produce more than one a week from then through 2019.
The city has limited leverage over Bombardier. The transit agency is applying for damages under the terms of the contract, but those are restricted to 5 per cent of the tab, amounting to $51-million. The agency is looking at filing a lawsuit as well, to recoup other costs caused by the delays. The board has also discussed the option of nixing the deal and going with another supplier, though Mr. Colle warns that could leave transit riders waiting even longer.
Bombardier said Monday that streetcar production in Thunder Bay will be supplemented by its plant in La Pocatière, Que. It is looking at various ways to speed up delivery, including adding an assembly line at one of its facilities, and promises more detail within weeks.
Bombardier spokesman Marc-André Lefebvre said that the new-found urgency was "completely separate" from the bailout request by the aerospace division. He attributed it to the newly arrived president for the Americas.
"The shift in leadership in our company has brought a lot of new vision and impetus to finish this project successfully," he said, noting that the company is focused more on the end goal of delivering all vehicles by 2019 than the interim targets.
But both Mr. Colle and TTC chief executive Andy Byford were openly doubtful about Bombardier managing to fulfill its promises, saying they would believe it when they see it. "We're outraged about this," Mr. Byford said.
Mayor John Tory said he was frustrated with Bombardier's inability to fulfill its contract.
"Suffice it to say, I am completely dismayed at this. It is, you know, no way to do business," he said. "As far as what the city can do, we can sue, and we make statements and we can have meetings. But we don't make streetcars. We only order them and pay for them. And we've done our part."
With a report from Jeff Gray