Two months after Bombardier announced the first vehicle for Toronto’s Eglinton Crosstown LRT was almost ready, the car has yet to be shipped, and the Quebec-based manufacturer now has just weeks to meet a deadline to deliver half a dozen of the new cars.
Under the terms of a $392-million contract agreed to last year, Bombardier is supposed to supply Metrolinx with 76 vehicles for the Crosstown, the $5.9-billion midtown light rail line that is currently under construction and is scheduled to open by September 2021.
In late October, Bombardier invited media to its facility outside Kingston, Ont. to demonstrate progress it had made in assembling the first vehicle. The company said at the time it would be ready to ship in November.
But according to Metrolinx, the provincial transportation agency in charge of building the Crosstown, a subsequent inspection in early December determined the car wasn’t ready.
“The vehicle required some corrections and adjustments prior to being released for shipment to Toronto,” said Metrolinx acting chief communications and public affairs officer Jamie Robinson in a statement.
“Due to constraints with shipping prior to the heavy traffic holiday season, Bombardier has informed Metrolinx that the arrival of the first vehicle is now scheduled for early 2019.”
Neither Metrolinx nor Bombardier would specify what adjustments the vehicle required.
Under the terms of the contract, the deadline for delivering the first six cars is Feb. 1.
According to Robinson’s statement, there are “significant financial penalties for Bombardier” if the company fails to supply “quality vehicles” by the deadline.
Metrolinx declined to say what the penalties are or whether it believes Bombardier will supply the six vehicles on time.
In a brief email, Bombardier spokesperson Jade St-Jean said the company is “on the right track” and “confident” it will meet the Feb. 1 deadline for all six cars.
She said the first car “was ready to be shipped in December” but as a result of the Christmas holidays it will now be sent the week of Jan. 7, 2019.
Asked to explain why the holiday would affect delivery, St-Jean said the car is being sent by truck and will require a police escort, which she suggested wouldn’t be available over the Christmas period.
According to Metrolinx, once it receives the first cars they will initially be used to test systems at the Crosstown vehicle maintenance and storage facility at Mount Dennis.
The delay in supplying the first Crosstown car is the latest development in the long-running saga of the expensive vehicle purchase.
In 2010, Metrolinx placed a $770-million order with Bombardier for 182 cars, with the intention of running them on several Toronto-area light rail lines.
But in 2016, Metrolinx filed a notice of intent to terminate the deal, claiming Bombardier had missed deadlines for the delivery of the first cars.
Bombardier countered in 2017 by seeking a court injunction to prevent Metrolinx from cancelling the contract. The company alleged Metrolinx had unfairly refused to take delivery of cars, and claimed the agency wanted out of the deal because several provincial light rail projects had been either delayed or cancelled and it no longer required all 182 vehicles it had ordered.
After a judge blocked Metrolinx from cancelling the contract, the two sides agreed in Dec. 2017 to reduce the number of vehicles in the order to 76.
Metrolinx also inked a deal with Alstom, a French rail manufacturer, to supply the Crosstown cars should Bombardier fail to deliver.
The Metrolinx order is separate from the TTC’s purchase of new streetcars from Bombardier, which has also faced delays.
A spokesperson for the TTC said that as of Monday, the agency had 117 of the new vehicles in service, and at least four more had been approved for delivery.
Bombardier had set a revised goal of supplying a cumulative total of 121 vehicles by the end of 2018. The company says that despite previous delays it is on track to deliver all 204 streetcars by the end of next year as planned.
Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr