If It Is Not Stock, Don’t buy It! – A Repost From December 2015

This post is from 2015 and Bombardier’s rail division, including MALM (SkyTrain) is now owned by Alstom and if there is a Conservative victory in the federal election, say goodbye to the Broadway subway and the Expo Line extension to Langley.
Rumour has it that the Conservatives are going to solve regional congestion with new highways and 10 lane bridges.
If true, say adios to SkyTrain, they don’t make it any more.
Our friend Haveacow is a Canadian Transportation Engineer and when he says something, we should be listening.
Zwei is not an engineer, but under the tutelage of the late Des Turner (Des was a chemical engineer who worked at Shell Oil, who took early retirement and went back to university and earned a master’s degree in urban planning) with his meticulous investigation of SkyTrain, light rail, and transit planning in general, I gained more than a passing knowledge of the transit issue.
From his correspondence with just about all the major players in urban transit in the 1980’s and 90’s, I learned a great deal about urban transit with a special focus on SkyTrain and light rail. It was Des, who finally made the provincial Social Credit government, after a stinging rebuke to then Minister Grace McCarthy at a public forum, to divulge the true cost of the original Expo Line and to New Westminster, which was different from what was said by the very same Minister in the legislature.
Des studied LIM’s and had much correspondence from Professor Laithwaite of the UK, who won a ‘gold medal’ for his endeavors with Linear Induction Motors. The good prof said that the ICTS was using the wrong kind of LIM, attractive, instead of repulsive.
All of the professional of the day, said the same thing about our ALRT/SkyTrain system, that; “it was terribly expensive for what it will do” and “the high costs of the system will come back and haunt us in the future”.
“If it is not in stock, don’t buy it” was a lesson that BC Transit and now TransLink refuse to learn and from what I hear in the news, the current minister in charge of regional transit, Mr. Fassbender (Factbender) seems deaf to any change and wants to continue to build with the very dated and very expensive SkyTrain proprietary light metro system.
Factbender seems to have been asleep during the last plebiscite and blunders ahead with a business as usual attitude.
Over to you, Mr. Haveacow……..
I found these two adds while I was looking on older Twitter feeds. These two adds are from this year’s UITP Conference in Brussels back in September. The first is a add featuring one of the 220 Flexity LRV’s serving in the host city. The same class of LRV’s that ran in Vancouver in 2010 for the Olympics. Looks pretty nice in a faux cityscape doesn’t it?
The second add is showing the numbers of current ORDERS for Bombardier Flexity LRV’s and Trams, again THIS IS LRV’S ORDERED NOT DELEIVERED which by the way, is over 2000. It doesn’t even show the 220 + orders for Ontario based LRT Lines.
The add shows a point I have tried to drill into SkyTrain supporters heads until I have been blue in the face. If you want your rail public transit vehicle design to survive, these are the kind of numbers you have to produce for it to be considered successful. Bombardier’s Innovia ART 200 & 300 numbers don’t even come anywhere close to this!

Mr. Cows comment on his post.

Opps I goofed! The Toronto and Waterloo orders are in the add however, the Hamilton B Line and Hurontario Line (Just Mississauga, no Brampton) LRV’s are not.

However, even though the TTC’s 204 LRV/Streetcar order replacing their legacy streetcars, is late the cars are in great shape when they do arrive. A Colleague of mine John, (his real name) who just retired from Bombardier’s Transportation (Rail Vehicles) division had an interesting story about the relative financial health of the division. It presently has $30 Billion (US) in back orders roughly 40% is a Flexity family LRV product order. The numbers of orders for LRV and Movia Metro products keeps growing. Their biggest problem is which European factories to shutdown (39+ factories in Europe which is way too many) and when to do it considering, their growing numbers of back orders for Rail products.

One of the few lines unfortunately that doesn’t have an increasing number of orders is the INNOVIA Automatic Metro Model 300, those are the Skytrain’s, if you were not aware. Bombardier has a 28, (4 car train sets) order for Vancouver and a 56 (4 car train set order) for Kuala Lumpur all being built in their Kingston plant. However, once the end of 2017 rolls around that will be it. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia has a possible future order for 47 (2 cat train sets) order but they want it built there in Saudi Arabia. It’s a simple order that may not require the Kingston Plant because the Saudi’s want standard electric rotary motors not the LIM propulsion units, The rest of the existing Metro fleet in Riyadh, uses standard motors and they don’t want to complicate things, which as a customer is their right! Remember John told me, “The LIM units are just a design option, they are not tied to the product anymore”. The people at Kingston are worried!

The real embarrassing thing is what happened with Bombardier’s website. I have been pointing out to anyone who had been willing to listen that, the INNOVIA Automatic Metro line section of Bombardier’s website was moved out of the rail vehicle section into transportation systems section. Well just before John retired a big s***storm about the website had occurred. Turns out that, both representatives from Kuala Lampur and Vancouver had both been wanting to ask why their rail vehicles were not in the rail vehicle section of the website. They were told that, even though they were both highly valued long time customers and Bombardier would always be willing to design a replacement vehicle for them. It was just more advantageous for them to have the INNOVIA product as a stand alone complete transportation system product because so few people had ordered the technology compared to Bombardier’s other rail vehicle lines. Very few would be looking for just replacement vehicles and they (Bombardier) assumed that your transit people would just call them directly because there are no other compatible technologies that you would be able to order, technically. The simple translation, you can’t call anyone else our propulsion technology only works with our vehicle designs although, there are others that use LIM propulsion it would be a very expensive option. John was not sure and seriously doubts that, there was a legal requirement that the current users must order from Bombardier unless, they Bombardier does not offer an equivalent product! However, it wouldn’t surprise him if their was. I will say again, he doesn’t think their is a no foreign product order on the contract but it wouldn’t surprise him if there was one. Guess what, the INNOVIA Metro 300 product is again back in the rail vehicle section of Bombardier’s website. So someone scarred Bombardier to change their website because the Skytrain technology sure wasn’t there in that section of the website 4 months ago. I always check!


3 Responses to “If It Is Not Stock, Don’t buy It! – A Repost From December 2015”
  1. Haveacow says:

    I was looking at all the orders on that poster and did a little homework. If that poster with the number of ordered Flexity LRV’s was updated to include every new Flexity order up to the point of the Alstom purchase it would include 850+ LRV’s ordered 7 new LRV pictures (indicating that they are new orders from new cities) and 5 updates to cities with existing orders (I didn’t include Toronto’s new order for 52 Flexit Outlook’s for the TTC, streetcar fleet because it took place after the purchase was complete). The 850+ new orders also includes taking away the 110 LRV’s that Toronto cancelled and replaced with 61 much larger Alstom Citadis Spirit LRV’s. An action that Vancouver could only replirate with extreme difficulty and high cost.

    I don’t usually toot someone else’s horn but regardless what you think of it, 3 cheers and a nod of respect for the Toronto Transit Commission (originally the Toronto Transportation Commission) on its 100th birthday (September 1, 1921). Only the second large municipal transit operator in North America. San Francisco’s Municipal Railway or “Muni” was created in 1912.

  2. Bunnyman says:

    New skytrains are still being made and delivered to Vancouver.

    Zwei replies: The new MALM cars paid for are arriving, the question is, how many of the ordered cars have been paid for?

  3. Haveacow says:

    They will be made as long as there is a large number of users. However, Alstom the new owners may not be interested past this round of already announced Skytrain purchases. Translink has the money but just barely and will replace all 150 Mk1 cars (witch they are doing with 4 section Mk 3 trainsets and the upcoming 5 section Mk4 trainsets) as well as extra trainsets to try and increase capacity on the Millennium Line, which is desperately short of trains. But Translink is also short of train storage and maintenance space. They desperately need to build the extension of the Expo Line to Langley, which includes the much fabled Operations and Maintenance Centre #4. The problem, they are now $1 Billion short to on the Langley Extension, due to the higher than expected cost of $3.95 Billion.

    Once all these Skytrain orders come through by 2024-2025, there are no more new upcoming orders for Alstom from the 6 other operations which use the driverless Bombardier LIM propulsion technology. Some Japanese use a similar technology but are tied through the Japanese government, to only use Hitachi products. The same for the lone Chinese operator, which bought the technology from Bombardier but must use Chinese built vehicles for future orders. The only other rapid transit operation that uses this technology as a functional rapid transit train is Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and they might buy from Japanese or Chinese companies due to the fact that, Bombardier is connected to a corruption scandal investigation of the former Prime Minister. Their last Mk 3 car order (27
    4- section Trainsets) is expected to be filled next year (2022).

    All other operators plan to stop using their Skytrain technology. Toronto is replacing the Scarborough RT with a subway extension, which is now under construction.

    Detroit will never replace its People Mover and plans to stop operating it in 2025.

    New York’s Kennedy Airport, the JFK Air-Train operation, although now successful due to its low fair cost compared to a $52 cab ride was a 1 time only airport express line, same as Beijing China’s, Airport Express. The debate at Kennedy Airport is either to buy a small amount of new 2 section trainsets or extend either the subway and or the Long Island Railway directly to the airport instead.

    Yongin, South Korea, a suburb of Seoul, has had an ongoing court battle with Bombardier over its Everline (a Skytrain like line from the end of a Metro Line to an Amusement Park) which may never get to its promised 75000 people a day break even point. This has forced the city to subsidize the Everline’s daily operation and through associated budgetary shortfalls cut back or cut off many city services.

    Only Vancouver and maybe Kuala Lumpur (if it can forget the technology’s corruption tag) and a possible small order from New York will ever use this technology again. This not enough customers in long term for Alstom. They need hundreds if not, 1000+ orders for the technology to remain useful. It also directly competes with a purely Alstom designed train product, being used in several Metro and Light Metro operations including, the upcoming REM system in Montreal.

    Zwei replies: Two quick notes.

    The JFK AirTrain is subsidized by a $7 airport tax and Kuala Lumpur also has a conventional light metro (Ampang Line)and a monorail.

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