TTC to buy 60 more streetcars from former Bombardier plant

Fibo Quantum

The TTC will buy 60 additional streetcars from the rail manufacturer formerly known as Bombardier, thanks to an injection of federal and provincial funding.

Federal Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna announced Wednesday Ottawa will contribute $180 million to help the TTC enlarge its fleet, which currently consists of 204 vehicles.

The province will also contribute $180 million, while the city of Toronto will kick in $208 million, for a total cost of $568 million. The funding will also help the TTC expand its Hillcrest streetcar facility.

The vehicles will be built by Alstom, the France-based manufacturer that completed its purchase of Bombardier’s transportation division in January. McKenna said the spending will help protect “good union jobs” at Alstom’s plant in Thunder Bay, Ont.

“Supporting the Toronto Transit Commission’s purchase of 60 new electric streetcars for Toronto, built in Thunder Bay, is a win-win situation for Canadians,” McKenna said in a statement, adding that in addition to providing jobs in the north of the province, the new vehicles would help reduce emissions and ensure Toronto residents who rely on transit can “get around quickly, safely and reliably.”

According the Unifor, the union that represents employees at the Thunder Bay factory, the workforce at the facility has dropped to just 300 from 1,100 three years ago.

The TTC signed a contract with Bombardier in 2009 to buy 204 new low-floor streetcars, and the company struggled for years to meet delivery timelines, severely damaging its reputation with TTC officials and Toronto riders. Dozens of the vehicles also had to be recalled for a major welding defect. But the company dramatically increased its production rate and only missed the final end-of-2019 deadline for delivering the fleet by a matter of weeks.

Mayor John Tory said Wednesday that while there were “a few little hiccups” in early stages of the initial order, those problems “are on their way to resolution if not resolved.”

He said the streetcars are a “quality, Canadian-made, emissions-free product” and the purchase would ensure Toronto’s transit system will be “better positioned to carry the people it has to carry in a recovery that we’re going to experience before too long.”

Prior to the pandemic, Toronto’s streetcar network carried about 230,000 people per day, and the TTC has predicted that despite the dramatic reduction in ridership during the crisis, in the long term it will still need additional vehicles to meet growing demand.

The TTC sought other potential streetcar providers but last year determined the original supplier was the best option. In October, the TTC board approved amending its original contract with Bombardier to add 13 streetcars to the order, at a cost of $140 million. But the agency left the door open to purchasing a total of 60 additional vehicles if more funding became available.

Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said delivery of the 60 new vehicles is scheduled to start in 2023.

The province will also seek a new deal with the Alstom plant to refurbish bi-level coaches used by GO Transit, while a separate order of 36 of the coaches is scheduled to arrive from Thunder Bay this summer.

Loading…

Loading…Loading…Loading…Loading…Loading…

“We’re enhancing our local and regional transit networks while also supporting good manufacturing jobs in Ontario,” Mulroney said.

The federal streetcar funding is part of a $12-billion transit commitment Justin Trudeau’s Liberals announced Tuesday, which will also be used to pay for the Ontario PCs’ GTA network expansion plan and a Hamilton LRT.

Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at bspurr@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr