Skip to main content

A new streetcar on Spadina Avenue in Toronto: Bombardier will free up an assembly line in Thunder Bay to speed deliveries.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Bombardier Inc. is lightening the workload on its passenger rail-car plant in Thunder Bay in an attempt to speed up delivery on a problem-plagued contract for new streetcars in Toronto.

The company confirmed Thursday that it will shift production on one of four contracts the plant is currently executing to another facility in Kingston – specifically, its $770-million contract with Ontario's regional transit agency Metrolinx – as of October.

The thinking is that will free up the Thunder Bay plant to focus on the $1-billion Toronto Transit Commission streetcar order, which will help accelerate the pace of delivery of the vehicles starting next year, Bombardier says. "We know it's a tough time for the TTC because of the delays, the late deliveries," said Marc Laforge, a spokesman for Bombardier. "So we're taking the measures that need to be taken under the circumstances.… Things will be coming pretty fast starting in 2017."

Story continues below advertisement

The company reaffirmed that it will have delivered about 31 of the low-floor mass-transit vehicles to Toronto by the end of the year, half of what it originally promised. Under a revised schedule shared with the TTC on Wednesday, it is pledging to deliver a further 40 vehicles in 2017, 76 in 2018 and 57 in 2019, for a total of 204.

The move at Thunder Bay is just one of what will likely be several production changes at Bombardier as the company tries to sort out problems with a streetcar deal that has angered public officials and blackened its reputation in Canada's biggest city.

TTC chair Josh Colle said on April 27 that he wanted to see the train maker take tangible steps to fix the problems before the federal government considers providing any public money to the company as part of the $1-billion investment request currently being evaluated by Ottawa.

Bombardier has already said it will add a second assembly line for the TTC project, and is expected to confirm the location of that line by the end of the month, Mr. Laforge said. The company has also said its assembly site in La Pocatière, Que., will pitch in on the TTC contract with work on the vehicle underframes.

Union officials with Unifor in Thunder Bay have pinned some of the blame for problems with the TTC contract on Bombardier's Mexico operations, saying components built in a facility there have often been of poor quality. Mr. Laforge declined to provide a detailed explanation on the specific reasons for the delays.

Chris Murray, an analyst at Altacorp Capital Inc., said he's not concerned that the issues Bombardier has experienced with the TTC contract could signal a broader operational problem at the Berlin-based train unit.

"I think they'll continue to work through the issues," Mr. Murray said. "There are contracts from time to time which technically become very challenging. I think that also [plays into] the discussion around bidding what would generally be considered immature designs and develop them in manufacturing."

Story continues below advertisement

The Thunder Bay facility employs about 1,100 workers carrying out four separate contracts: the TTC streetcar deal; a 182-vehicle light-rail car order for Metrolinx; new bi-level cars for GO Transit; and another TTC agreement for new subway cars. That last contract is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

About 60 jobs will be eliminated at the Thunder Bay plant as work gets shifted to other Bombardier facilities, Mr. Laforge said. The company will add to its 300-strong work force in Kingston as the Metrolinx contract gets up to speed, he said. That plant was originally slated to be the testing centre for the Metrolinx cars. It will now build those cars as well.

 

Bombardier order up in the air

One of the largest orders for the new Bombardier Inc. C Series plane is no longer on the company's long-term production schedule, Alain Bellemare, Bombardier's chief executive officer, said.

The Republic Airways Holdings Inc. order for 40 CS300 jets is still in the backlog and Bombardier is "working with them," Mr. Bellemare said Thursday according to reports from New York, where he gave a speech.

Republic filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this year, all but putting the final nail in the coffin on an order that had been in doubt long before the court filing.

Story continues below advertisement

For several years during the development of the C Series program, Republic's order for 40 planes and 40 options was the largest single order on the books. Air Canada and Delta Air Lines Ltd. have since surpassed that total with a letter of intent for 45 planes in Air Canada's case and a 75-plane order on the part of Delta.

Mr. Bellemare said everything is on track at Bombardier for the first passenger flight of the C Series on July 15 with Swiss International.

Greg Keenan

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Unchecking box will stop auto data updates
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies