The Perils Of A Proprietary Railway

ALRT/ART is what we call a proprietary railway and because Bombardier Inc. hold the technical patents for ART, they are the sole supplier of ART cars, as they can always undercut the competition, who must design a Linear Induction Motor powered car from scratch. Designing a specialty transit vehicle from scratch is a very expensive proposition and may add about $30 million to the cost of companies who bid for ART cars for Vancouver’s ALRT/ART proprietary light metro.

This, of course, gives Bombardier Inc. a great advantage and why the company loves to sell unconventional  proprietary railways because they have the operators in a”gotcha”situation, being the sole supplier.

It seems complacency is the order of the day at Bombardier Inc., where major trouble with Toronto’s tram procurement program and now Waterloo’s Bombardier built trams are being returned to sender, with the knowledge that the feds will always bail them out.

It is nice to be considered a favoured company by both the governments of Quebec and Canada with billions of dollars in loans, grants, subsidies, and deferments given, but when a producing a simple tram that works seems beyond their ken, it is really time to call it a day.

Funny that Ottawa’s French designed Alstom trams seem to be working fine, yet Bombardier’s trams seem to be duds.

Meanwhile, in Metro Vancouver, we are stuck with Bombardier Inc. and their aged product and that is something TransLink and the regional mayors remain ignorant of. If Bombardier Inc. goes bust, there is no other supplier for ART SkyTrain cars, which will greatly increase costs for an already overpriced proprietary transit system.

Another LRT setback? Region’s first train to be sent back to Bombardier


CTV Kitchener
Published Saturday, September 2, 2017 7:37PM EDT

Construction for the LRT is nearly complete but Waterloo Region doesn’t have a train to test out the system.

Only one Bombardier train, ordered back in August 2013, has been delivered.

And it doesn’t work.

Officials say the vehicle was sent to test the region’s storage facility and they knew it wasn’t operational.

The train may now be sent back to Bombardier says regional councilor Tom Galloway.

“They’ll have to either send it back to Kingston to bring it up to working standard or bring the staff down here.”

Bombardier says all the trains should be delivered by the end of the year, but some still worry that this latest setback may mean Ion’s launch will have to be pushed back.

“We always have to be a little cautions about schedules coming from Bombardier because, of course, they are behind,” says Galloway.

Bombardier said in a statement: “Manufacturing and assembly of the vehicles in Bombardier’s Kingston [facility] is going very well, with high speed testing on our test track progressing accordingly. The question of the delivery schedule is under discussion between our team and the Region’s, and so we cannot comment further on this issue for the time being. We assure you that we will keep everyone informed as soon as we have developments.”

Officials say if they get a working train by the fall they can begin testing immediately.


3 Responses to “The Perils Of A Proprietary Railway”
  1. Nate says:

    Don’t both CRRC and Kawasaki make LIM based trains?

    Zwei replies: They do, but their trains are not compatible with our trains. LIM’s are used on monorails and rubber tyred systems as well. Companies who sell propriety transit systems, well understand the “gotcha” factor with those very same transit systems.

    The fact is, the only transit mode where LIM’s are necessary are MAGLEVs.

  2. zweisystem says:

    Zwei talked to Siemens rep. about LIM powered trains and he said that “the cost to develop cars suitable for LIM operation is (was) about $30m to $40m. One just just add LIM trucks (bogies) to a standard coach. The first problem, LIM’s are very weight conscious and cars that are too heavy will consume power at a large rate, making them uneconomical.

  3. Haveacow says:

    Linear Induction Motor technology has been around for a while now (40+ years), unfortunately it has 2 primary issues with regards to standard electric motors. First, they don’t do well in overly harsh climates especially and quite ironically being a Canadian developed technology, in anything to do with cold weather and snow (massive drop in available power vs its electrical current use unless ice is removed and electric lines heated). Secondly, what was once world beating technology has hit the point where its operating efficiency can no longer be improved. Existing affordable commercially available technology limits improving the motor’s power efficiency, unless a major re-investment in research around its technology and engineering is done by companies like Bombardier. Something they are not willing to do because of the cost of the research versus the market potential of the product. Unfortunately for LIM, the just as reliable and much cheaper to build and operate conventional electric 5 and 7 pole “Can” motors is severely limiting LIM motor development in the transit drive technology field.

    There are several Japanese companies that make LIM technology. However, the Japanese government had to force these companies to make their LIM systems compatible country wide. There are still very few rapid transit lines in Japan that actually use the LIM technology (no more than 6-7 lines in all of Japan) because of the extra cost and added operational complexity of using it, especially when most of your existing rapid transit lines use standard electric motors. None of the Japanese systems are compatible with the Bombardier’s (UTDC of Ontario originally) Skytrain LIM technology used in Vancouver. This was done purposely so that you have to choose a single builder and supplier.

    Actually, CRRC makes a Chinese version of the originally, Hitachi based LIM technology under license. However, the Hitachi based system and its Chinese counterpart are not compatible with each other. Japanese producers didn’t want to have massive Chinese competition caused by China’s unfortunate tendency to acquire technology by out right illegally copying or building a product under license then, break their legal agreement and then turn around and sell the Chinese product under a different name as its own idea. China’s new Trackless Train, a guided bus really, uses a copies of French, German and Dutch optical and electromagnetic bus guidance technology, repackaged as their “Trackless Train”.

    Like Zwei said, anyone of these other companies could build a Vancouver like LIM system but, they would have to pay for the use of Bombardier’s patents or purchase them outright thus, more than likely, making any other company’s train more expensive than a Bombardier product. Yes, Bombardier does this, as does every other rail car manufacturer on the planet because of the truly massive development costs of these rail vehicles and their motor drive technology as well as the financial threat from competitors or competitors who will not respect intellectual property protection laws.

    Japan had very lax laws regarding the protection of intellectual property throughout the 1960′s up to the late 1980′s, until people started to steal their new ideas! Then the Japanese laws became some of the strongest in the world regarding the protection of intellectual and technological property rights. China will eventually follow suite as well. It’s one thing to improve on someone else’s idea, its entirely another thing to have your “new” ideas stolen from you.

Leave A Comment