Will This Be The End Of The Innovia Light-Metro?

Bombardier Inc. is in big trouble.

The company lost Montreal’s tailor made tender for its REM light-metro project and continues to be late in delivering trams to Toronto and combined with a sundry of other problems has, made the Bombardier product a piranha.

If Bombardier lays off a good number of its employees at its railway plant, there is a very good chance they may mothball niche transit products, such as LIM powered Innovia light-metro.

If the Innovai production line is mothballed or dismantled, I doubt it will be reactivated.

This means no more new cars for the Innovia SkyTrain, unless another company designs and builds a LIM version compatible light-metro.

The recent announcement by TransLink to purchase cars in the near future, will mean nothing, if Bombardier does not have a production line to make them.

Memo to Premier Horgan: It is called the perils of a proprietary railway.

Bombardier may lay off hundreds at its Quebec railway plant if no orders come in

Company was recently excluded from contract to supply trains for Montreal’s light-rail

The railway division of Bombardier Inc. says losing out on a large electric train contract in Montreal may force it to lay off workers this fall at its plant in La Pocatiere, Que., unless it wins some new contracts.

Spokesman Eric Prud’homme describes the situation for the facility as perilous once the contract to make new subway cars for Montreal’s metro system ends.

He says it is “five after midnight” for the plant over the next 12 months, putting at least half of the plant’s 600 jobs on the line.

Local elected officials and workers are calling for an emergency meeting with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard on the future of the plant.

They asked Couillard Monday to update his recent comments that there would soon be work and other contracts for this site, even though Bombardier was not selected for the contracts of the Metropolitan Express Network (REM).

The Quebec multinational was excluded from the contract to supply trains, which was won by a consortium involving Alstom Transport Canada and a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin.

No local content requirement was set by CDPQ Infra, the subsidiary of Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, which is leading the $6.3-billion project.

Bombardier also lost out last year on a contract to build cars for Montreal’s commuter transportation network, which ordered 24 new train cars from the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation after lowering Canadian content requirements to 15 per cent from 25 per cent in prior contracts.

Prud’homme says La Pocatiere could benefit from an extension of the Montreal Metro contract, which is replacing aging cars on only half the subway network.


Update: Bombardier gets rebuke from major shareholder.


34 Responses to “Will This Be The End Of The Innovia Light-Metro?”
  1. Haveacow says:

    Like I said before, Bombardier will still be able to build the SkyTrain however, it will cost a lot more now because the prexisting light metro product lines will most likely be building another company product line and will have to be re-tooled to do that. I don’t see Bombardier letting entire production lines shutdown when they are behind on 3 existing LRV orders. If an order comes through for a Mark 3 SkyTrain, they have computers they can restart that production line again however, the new Skytrains will cost more because the customer (most likely TransLink) will have to pay for retooling that line back to the proper configuration to start production.

    Zwei replies: I heard from another source (fairly reliable) that the LIM and monorail Innovia’s will be discontinued within two years, which is why the order was announced. If this is true, kiss goodbye for any extension to Langley and to UBC, as the cars will have to be custom made.

  2. Haveacow says:

    Most of Bombardier’s problems seem to in the North American transit vehicle supply and assembly side. Their European transit production side seems to be fine. They just got a big contract in lndia to supply their Movia Metro Trains.

  3. Haveacow says:

    Just announced from Bombardier, TransLink is accelerating the order for Skytrains and Canada Line cars.

  4. Stratford says:

    Canada line uses a different train made in Korea. It was under built because BC liberals care more about drivers and building highways and bridges. Most people that voted for liberal live out in the fraser valley.

    If translink wants to add more trains then they will need to rebuild the two end stations in Richmond and the airport to have 2 platforms. Airport could pay for their station. Richmond will have to pay for their station.

    Zwei replies: The Canada Line was under-built because the construction costs were approaching $3 billion, which when one considered the original budget of $1.3 billion, the Canada line was fast becoming their version of a “FastFerry” project.

  5. Dondi says:

    Below are sentences from http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/live-translink-to-make-announcement-about-increased-skytrain-capacity.

    On any pro-transit blog this expansion in transit capacity would be welcomed along with any critical comments ans warnings that need to also be made, but this blog is non-stop negativity – the mentality seems to be like the ‘kill the village in order to save the village’ of the US in Vietnam.

    “The cars, which were supposed to be delivered sometime between 2022 and 2024, are now expected to be in service by the end of 2019.

    TransLink has another 28 Expo and Millennium train cars on order, which are scheduled to arrive sometime around the end of this year and be in service at the beginning of 2019. It has also ordered 24 new cars for the Canada Line, and those cars will be in service by the end of 2020.

    “In two short years the entire system will increase by about 80 cars, a very significant capacity improvement to the SkyTrain network,” Desmond said.

    The cars are expected to increase capacity on the Expo Line by 10 per cent, on the Millennium Line by 23 per cent and on the Canada Line by 30 per cent, adding 8,200 more spaces per peak hour in both directions on all lines.

    According to the most recent figures from TransLink, ridership grew on the Expo and Millennium lines by 12 per cent last year, while ridership grew by six per cent on the Canada Line.

    Vancouver. In 2017 alone, ridership grew by more than 12 per cent on the Expo and Millennium lines, and more than six per cent on Canada Line.

    The [28] cars will cost a total of $298 million, and the purchase will be funded by three levels of government. The federal government will contribute 50 per cent of the cost through the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, the province will contribute 33 per cent and TransLink is responsible for the remaining 17 per cent, plus all of the operating costs.”

    Zwei replies; Such foolish statements. Part of operating a public transit system is the affordable operation of public transport. This blog tells, or try to tell, the real story behind transit and the reasons for certain decisions made today.

    Building transit for the sake of building transit is a muggs game and tarting up a transit story that hides the real facts that the Canada Line, for its costs, is horribly under built and is in the strictest terms, a “White Elephant”. if you wish not to believe it, it is your prerogative.

    Out current transit mess (and a true mess it is) has been brought to you by dishonest politicians, who have so perverted transit planning, that it has become almost unique in the world.

    The only city that has come close in copying Vancouver is Seattle, with their light-metro system, but there is one big difference, they use light rail vehicles instead of small mini-metro cars and they retain the ability to operate on lesser R-o-W’s if so desired.

    Their hugely expensive light-metro planning comes at a cost, a rather small network and now with the Trump administration firmly in power, federal money that was promised for Seattle, may not happen, thus putting transit planning in jeopardy.

  6. Dondi says:

    Correction from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/skytrain-capacity-announcement-1.4549128:

    The 56 SkyTrain cars will cost $210 million and the [24] Canada Line cars $88 million.

    The Expo Line’s capacity will grow by 10 per cent, he said. The Millennium Line’s capacity will increase by 23 per cent, while the Canada Line will see up to 30 per cent growth.

    Zwei replies; if capacity is to grow by 10% on the Expo Line, then TransLink was telling porkies about ridership claims. Mind you, how TransLink determines capacity has a lot left to be desired.

  7. Dondi says:

    More corrections, from http://buzzer.translink.ca/2018/02/2017-a-record-year-for-transit-ridership-in-metro-vancouver/ , e.g., that a better picture on transit “ridership” is that it increased 6% last year rather than the above-quoted 12% for the E and M lines.

    “In 2017, ridership in Metro Vancouver reached a record-breaking 407 million boardings! That’s a 5.7 per cent increase over 2016.

    Not only that, the number of journeys in the system reached 247 million—another record and 5.8 per cent increase over the year before!

    [Note to Zwei: Journeys grew more than boardings so take a break from your refrain that all that is happening is more transfers from buses to trains to buses.]

    Ridership grew across all modes except West Coast Express, which experienced a drop of 5.5 per cent, as some customers found the new Evergreen Extension more convenient for their needs. On HandyDART, 1.25 million trips were provided in 2017, up 2 per cent from the year before.

    Weekday transit ridership in the Tri-Cities increased more than 25 per cent by the end of 2017, in large part due to the opening of the Evergreen Extension.

    No major urban centre has seen as great a shift in people [as Vancouver in] choosing transit as their mode of choice.”

    Zwei replies: Actually, the spate news releases means nothing, with 130,000 U-passes issued and TransLink refusing to release how many “unique” taps (would indicate the actual number of customers) of the Compass Card on a daily basis, their boarding numbers can be taken with a grain of salt.

    Why use journey’s & boarding’s, when with the Compass Card, a much more accurate determination of transit usage can be calculated.

    The recent spate of news releases are meant to bamboozle the the public, to garner support for the Broadway subway and congestion charging.

    Congestion reigns supreme in metro Vancouver and car ownership is rising faster than ever.

    As I said before, until TransLink has a truly independent annual audit of ridership, as is done in Europe, they can claim anything.

    In house claims are meaningless.

  8. Haveacow says:

    Don’t get overly excited about the extra capacity offered by these 28 new 4 section consists. It’s no surprise, this order has a different purpose, it is keeping a failing production line open. I’m not driving into a rant here. Just listen. It helps keep people employed, and yes, it also has the added benefit of keeping this next order of 28 Skytrains affordable.

    The previous order of Skytrains due to arrive next near was about $ 3.32 Million per 4 section consist. As with everything prices go up as time goes on due to inflation. When you seperate the 2 28 consist orders you realize that this new order is costing almost $4.1 Million per 4 section consist. Imagine the cost to TransLink if the Bombardier factory in La Pocatiere had actually been forced to retool and build another product like those desperately needed and late LRV orders for several Ontario LRT lines. What would the price be 3 or 4 years from now?

    I’m not cheering for SkyTrain here but from my perspective, TransLink has just made a good choice given the bad situation TransLink, Bombardier, including anybody with financial interest in them like Montreal, the pension system of Quebec, it’s provincial government and the federal government.

    TransLink has 150 Mark 1 Skytrains that are in bad shape and need replacement. TransLink has underplayed just how much these 33 year old vehicles and their mid 1970’s designed technology were costing to keep going. Even Bombardier is having problems getting spare parts for these units. This new order for Skytrains will help speed up their much needed replacement. Zwei the rapid transit system in Vancouver imperfect as it is, needs to keep moving regardless how you, me or anyone else feels about the operational technology.

    Is this a grand example of a group of desperate government and private company officials trying ultimately in vain to keep a overly expensive Canadian rapid transit technology from disappearing into history? Yes! Yes it is. However, Vancouver still needs a functioning rapid transit system. Any replacement like a Tram-Train is at best 6-7 years away. Any conversion of a SkyTrain line to a more common form of LRT is a decade off being realistic.

    So is Vancouver getting more capacity than it already has? Yes, a little more but when it becomes public how expensive those old Mark 1 Skytrains are to keep running. The small amount of extra capacity will be a nice secondary thought around the effort that will be required to keep those Mark 1 trains in service just long enough so they can be comfortablely replaced by the new incoming Mark 3 trains.

    Zwei replies: Exactly, as the MK.1’s wear out, they need to be replaced.

  9. Vancouver says:

    BC government had a plan in 2006 to increase the capacity of the expo line. This plan was to extend the platfroms and double the length of trains. What happened to that plan?

    Zwei replies: Money, about $3 billion.

  10. zweisystem says:

    I understand the trucks are giving big problems these days.

  11. tensorflow says:

    Consider the fact that Kawasaki Heavy Industry & Nippon Sharyo also manufacture LIM trains, if they are compatible with the (non Canada Line) SkyTrain system – which I think with high probability it could be because the inductive material required by LIM is just a piece of metal – they can supply Translink’s future need on LIM vehicles, had Bombardier indeed close Innovia Metro’s production line.

    Kawasaki Heavy Industry & Nippon Sharyo’s production on LIM trains won’t end in at least 10 years, since the Toei Odeo Line (LIM based) is subject to an 11km extension that had been set up as high priority (jp:整備優先) by MLIT.

    Zwei replies: Not compatible. The big problem is car design and our SkyTrain cars are very light in construction. Also the LIM’s are different. We have attractive LIM’s and they have repulsive LIMS.

  12. Dondi says:

    Mr Zwei

    Every major transit system in Canada has a Upass system. So your objection to Translink ridership figures on this basis is misplaced. There is nothing inferior about Upass riders – they are using transit rather than driving, etc. In fact, this kind of reduced fare system should be extended much further, to attract additional riders and to extend mobility rights. In Europe student’s use of transit has traditionally been massively subsidized. You keep citing European transit management – why the double standard on this issue? And you keep citing 130,000 Upassers. I wish they were all taking transit, but the reality is that most students do NOT use their Upass, so this is an additional reason to give this objection to Translink ridership figures a rest.

    I look forward to the Compass data being published, but there is any easy explanation for why Translink still cites the “boardings” and “journeys” data – it is the only basis for making consistent comparisons over time.

    I know, the data is inconvenient to your case, but that does not make it invalid.

    Zwei reples: Every transit system? Every transit system issues 130,000 U-Passes? I do not think you understand the gravity of the situation.

  13. Haveacow says:

    Beyond just the main issue that the Skytrain’s trucks aren’t made by Bombardier anymore but by an outside contractor, no. I hadn’t heard that they were anymore troublesome than they always had been mainly due to the steerable factor. The TTC had to essentially redesign and rebuild the linkage in the trucks back in the 1990’s on their fleet to keep them from falling apart on the Scarborough RT’s tight curves. Evidently the curves on the line including the now unused turnaround at Kennedy Station were fine for the much longer CLRV’s that had been originally planned to operate on the line but were too tight for the Mark 1 RT cars. How ironic!

  14. Haveacow says:

    @tenserflow, most LIM based systems around the world are not compatible with each other by design. The various manufacturers don’t want to loose the value of the patents they own. The exception is in japan where the LIM propulsion equipment for various companies was ordered by the Japanese national government to be a standardized system that, the multitude of companies in Japan that build railway vehicles could all bid equally. Forcing competition and eliminating any monopolistic proprietary system threat. It’s interesting to note that, when the same Japanese companies sold their LIM propulsion technology for rail systems in China, they all chose to make sure the system that the Chinese got was not compatible with the Japanese LIM systems. Fearing Chinese companies would flood into the Japanese LIM markets and take over market share.

  15. Haveacow says:

    Dondi is right, most cities in Canada have a system of subsidized transit passes for University and College Students. The number can be quite large for example, there are at the least 120,000+ U Passes in Ottawa for the 2 Universities and 2 Very large Community Colleges. Religious and the small private colleges were not included. That doesn’t mean all students use them however in fact, the last figures for Ottawa I saw were that even though they are provided by paying their tuition only 65% of full time students were using them on a regular basis.

    Now O.C Transpo fought very hard to make sure that although the students did get a discount compared to regular adult passes, it was made sure that, full time students were paying at the least, around 70-75% of the adult transit pass cost. The reason O.C. Transpo went for this is because they realized, getting 70-75% of the monthly adult pass cost for 120,000+ students was better than forcing them to pay full price and maybe having 40-50% (if they were lucky) buying them. Ottawa transit passes cost $116.50 per month, most University and Community College students just can’t afford that on a regular basis.

    Again, our monthly transit passes in Ottawa are currently $116.50 and can be loaded onto your Presto Card. Unfortunately, only the E-Purse feature (where you pay money for your transit fare on your Presto Card, instead of having a monthly pass) is the only one that is transferable to other Ontario cities and their Presto Cards. Ironically just across the river, only the monthly pass portion of the Presto Card is transferable to the STO’s (Gatineau, Quebec’s Transit System) on their MULTI Card system where the Presto E-Purse doesn’t work.

    Zwei replies: The problem, I have been told from a now retired TransLink type (long gone out of the GVRD area and he advised me to do the same) is that the $1 a day U-Pass was designed for about 30% compliance and over 30% usage, meant TransLink would lose money. The problem with the U-Pass is two fold: 1) It is estimated that there is 80% usage (there are reasons for this), meaning TransLink is losing revenue and 2) The students were using the U-Pass multiple times a day, both skewing “unique” boarding numbers.

    It is a coincidence that TransLink financial distress appeared with the advent of the U-Pass and politicians blamed fare evaders instead of finding out the real reasons for the loss of revenue.

    It is ironic, that TransLink may spend $3 billion for a subway, used mainly by deep discounted U-pass users, thus only increasing TransLink’s financial woes.

  16. Haveacow says:

    This is Ottawa’s fare structure for our Monthly Passes:

    Per month Presto or ParaPay

    Adults $116.50
    Youth 19 and under $89.75
    Seniors 65+ $44.50
    Community $43.25
    EquiPass $58.25
    Access $43.25

    Transit fares effective Jan. 1, 2018

    This is the fare structure Per Ride costs at O.C. Transpo

    *Old bus tickets are no longer on sale but remain valid on buses until April 30, 2018

    Seniors ride for free on Wednesdays

    Supplement payment of $2.30 per ride is required by Access pass holders on Para Transpo trips.

    e-Purse Cash (on buses) Old paper tickets*
    Presto or Cash/Credit/Debit
    ParaPay (at Ticket Machines)

    Adults & Youth 13+ $3.45 $3.50 2
    Seniors 65+ $2.60 $2.65
    Children 6-12 $1.75 $1.80 1
    Eligibility $1.75 — —

    Children 5 and under Free

  17. Haveacow says:

    Sorry guys the fare structure table on O.C. Transpo’s website didn’t translate well

  18. Vancouver says:

    BC government had a plan in 2006 to increase the capacity of the expo line. This plan was to extend the platfroms and double the length of trains. What happened to that plan?

    Zwei replies: Money, about $3 billion.

    Seriously, is that your reason. $3billion is cheap to upgrade skytrain capacity.

    Government pays $3billion to widen higway from Vancouver to Langley that includes a new bridge.

    Government will spend $1.4 billion to replace bridge between new westminister and surrey.

    Government was going to spend nother $3 billion to replace tunnel on highway 99.

    Government can afford to upgrade Skytrain if they change their priorities. The yearly BC budget is $53 billion.

  19. Haveacow says:

    It’s not just the cost, it’s upgrading all the electrical and signal systems as well. Wholesale software upgrades which are never fun. Then upgrading or essentially rebuilding all the above grade concrete structures between the stations. There are several layers of concrete infrastructure all on the same structure. Most people think the above grade SkyTrain right of way is just one solid piece of concrete, it’s not. Then long sections of track and quite a few turnouts (railway track switches) have to be replaced. Upgrading them from the current slow speed turnouts to higher speed ones. When I asked, it was discribed as a complete teardown and rebuild for large percentage of the original Expo Line. This will take anywhere from 5-8 years. All while the rest of the system is still operating. It’s not something the transit planners/engineers and system operators take lightly.

  20. Haveacow says:

    @ Vancouver

    It’s not just a matter of government spending priorities. It’s years of planning, engineering and design that has to be done before the first jackhammer even thinks of starting up. Once it’s started this project will not only eat up a vast majority of TransLink’s

  21. Haveacow says:

    Human and financial resources and tie them up for a good chunk of a decade. Once started you can’t suddenly decide that, you have other transit spending priorities. Once you start this project you have to finish it. Currently, TransLink really has no idea how much it will really cost, what really needs to be done first, when they will be able to even start and how to pay for it.

  22. tensorflow says:

    …wait a minute @zweisystem, why would it be even possible to have a “attractive” LIM? All (current) LIM trains are asynchronous and have stator onboard with no electric connection to the rotor on ground, which means that the only way to get them moving is to induce an opposite current on the part of the rotor below the car. This should only provide a repulsive force. Would you mind provide some citations on this?

    @Haveacow That’s the case for LSM since the stator is something you can apply for a patent, but I would be very surprised if LIM can be intentionally made incompatible. This is like saying that the British own the patent of modern railway because no one else are allowed to put two pieces of metal on the ground horizontally without violating the law. Same case for LIM since I really think that is just a piece of metal within the track. Could you also provide the citations of why the Chinese system is incompatible with the Japanese one? Different gauge does not count.

    Zwei replies: SkyTrain’s LIM’s can trace their parentage back to the Krauss Maffei Maglev, that was demonstrated at the CNE in the mid 70’s. The UDTC bought the patent and It was an attractive LIM and the reason why the 1 cm air-gap between the air-gap and reaction rail was and is so important.

    The late Prof. Eric Laithwaite, who won awards with his work on LIM’s stated in letter to the late Des Turner, that the UTDC was using the wrong sort of LIM!

    It is my understanding that all LIM powered transit systems are proprietary.

  23. zweisystem says:

    For those who have issues with the LIM’s, this is old news.

    They have been used on SkyTrain for 32 years and have not provided the cost savings, as was predicted, instead large extra costs have been associated with LIM’s as evidenced in Honolulu where, Bombardier/SNC lost a light metro contract, in part, due to concerns about LIM’s.

    Mr. Cow can elaborate, but one early problem was overheating, as well as snow ingress and rectifying the problems cost money.

    Again I ask; “Who has copied Vancouver’s use of SkyTrain?”

    This is important, that in an age of unprecedented investment in urban transit, only 7 LIM powered UTDC/Bombardier/SNC have been built and only 3 seriously used for urban transit.

  24. Haveacow says:

    It’s really very simple. The LIM system is a very uncommon way of moving a train. It used to be more energy efficient but far cheaper and simpler standard electric motors now easily best it in operational and most importantly financial environments. Only in overly hilly situations does it still win out. That’s not my assessment it’s Bombardier’s, where I used to work. There is a reason that the Innovia medium metro transportation system ( Bombardier’s latest marketing name for the SkyTrain technology) have LIM propulsion as a option for all new Innovia orders and not core standard equipment.

    Saudi Arabia just ordered the Innovia system for one of their rapid transit lines in their capital. However, no LIM propulsion, no Cityflo 650 automation system (they are using a local product), no Bombardier Trucks (bogies) and there is an attendant’s cab.

    If SkyTrain is so damned good how come Bombardier can only sell the f**king thing without massively modifying the original design. I can tell you but you won’t like the answer. I don’t want to be mean, I don’t like being the a** on the website. Guys the writing may be on the wall regarding the product’s future. Start planning for the conversion to a more standard product in the not so distant future. Or have a local firm by the technology and build it locally if you honestly believe in the product.

    In the 1970’s the public convinced the TTC, the Metro Toronto Government and the Ontario Government to reinvest in Toronto’s streetcar system. They convinced a subway builder to partner with a European company and build them in Canada. Toronto is a much better city because it kept its streetcars and the TTC had to admit they were less expensive to operate given their ridership than buses.

  25. tensorflow says:

    Just FYI, Kawasaki’s LIM also have a 1cm air-gap [1]

    [1] http://transport.chd.edu.cn/Upload/PaperUpLoad/fca3542e-d0b2-4a1d-afae-0b848f0c8d25.pdf

    ….and are you sure by “attractive” you are refering to Krauss-Maffei Transurban instead of the Krauss-Maffei Transrapid system, both of them are maglev. Transrapid is indeed attractive but this is because it’s LSM & this is not the system Bombardier had (Transrapid is a now a Siemens product now).

    Zwei replies: It was the Transurban maglev that could not turn corners.

  26. tensorflow says:

    OK after digging some ancient Japanese blog I think I know what you are talking about.

    In terms of levitation, German’s Krauss-Maffei system are all attractive while the Japanese SCMaglev is repulsive.

    I think you mistakenly believe that Krauss-Maffei’s attractive levitation system is still in use by Bombardier who purchase part of their patent. However levitation had nothing to do with the current wheel based LIM, since they don’t need any levitation. The weight is still hold on the wheels and the 1cm air-gap is no longer maintained by levitation anymore (see preivous Chinese paper for details).

    Same case for the Japanese. In fact, Nippon Sharyo do both attractive levitation and repulsive levitation, the first type is used in Chuo Shinkansen and the second type is used in Linimo.As for the propulsion system, it’s a separate system and it should be both repulsive as long as you are using a short stator LIM system (which is the case for SkyTrain and Odeo Line)

    Zwei replies: It hasn’t anything to do about levitation, it is about propulsion and Mr. Cow is correct, LIM’s were only recommended for very hilly transit routes, with a lot of steep 10%+ grades.

  27. Haveacow says:

    Every one is getting mired down in technology. The basic opertional assumptions of the system as a whole are at the core of why the SkyTrain system doesn’t sell well. The very niche like marketshare the propulsion technology engenders just adds to the extra operational costs of this system. It’s a very round about way to move a train. Transit agencies like predictable results and costs.

    These are some of the reasons why so few non-native or non-North American bus technology is used here. Unknown or unreliable parts suppliers are not tolerated. It’s the same for rail based technology. So few people use the SkyTrain because driverless or not, there seems to be a lot of extra technology needed just to move the train from place to place.

    For example, the Skytrains require 4 rails just to move the train. 2 standard rails a 3rd rail power collection system and a 4th rail to provide induction of electrical current to create a magnetic field to move the train. It’s interesting to note both the CDPQ running the planned REM system in Montreal and the designers and operators of Saudi Arabia’s capital region transit authority both believed standard electric motors were cheaper, easier and more operationally efficient. So no 4th rail needed. Heck, in Montreal they aren’t even using 3rd rail just simple overhead wire. No need for 67+ km of very expensive 3rd rail to maintain. Although, 3rd rail does have some advantages over overhead power or OCS systems. The people running the REM system sure think otherwise. All those extra rails have to be maintained in Vancouver, so some of the money you save from driverless operations is lost on extra rail maintenance. I could go on further but I won’t my son is next in line (finally) for his CT Scan. Oh yes, another weekend at CHEO (Children’s Hospital for Eastern Ontario) such fun for everyone.

    Zwei replies: Driverless operation is a question of signalling and is the ultimate and most expensive of signalling systems. The Victoria Line, which is considered the first fully automatic metro system in the world, retained drivers as a safety measure, yet by using automatic operation, saved millions in operating costs, doing away with signal boxes and manual or analogue signalling systems. The question of course is; “does one have the traffic flows to justify the investment? And, of course with LRT, only has local and much simpler signalling systems, or operate “line of sight”.

  28. tensorflow says:


    You’re not wrong, Guangzhou abandon the LIM adaeption for Line 7 since the city government deemed it’s not useful and are too expensive. But Guangzhou’s Line 4, in together with all the existing line around the word that was using LIM will have to still use LIM, since the clearance & slope have already been designed for the benefit LIM brings.

    That is the reason why I was researching if the Japanese LIM trains could be compatible with the current status quo in Vancouver. Because LRT simply can’t run on the existing Expo line track. First it’s too narrow for them, second there are some crazy slopes that regular propulsion system just won’t work during rainy days. So far the only thing I’ve seen in the comments of this post are numerious topic-drift and no one had been able to present me a proof of whether they are compatible or not.

    Zwei replies: The industry standard for gradients for LRT is 8%; in Sheffield, the steepest grade is 10% and in Lisbon, 13.9%. It is my belief the steepest grades grades on the Innovia SkyTrain lines is 7%. Rain has nothing to do with climbing gradients. If you want to see the track maintenance types look grey is falling leaves. In fact falling leaves stalled the Canada line in Richmond, with no grade at all!

    As for LRT operating on the Expo Lines, the real problem would be weight and high-floor loading.

  29. tensorflow says:

    Thank you for your reply.

    I think the falling leaves stalling Canada line was really caused by the problem @Heavecow mentioned: third rail. It doesn’t have to do with anything else. I also dislike the design choice of third rail, not sure if this is caused by the size of the Dunsmuir Tunnel, but at least Canada Line should be able to utilize overhead line.

    Rain does have a lot to do with climbing gradients, because it greatly affect the adhesion as the rail become slippery, thus reduce the tractive effort . This could be potentially dangerous as the trains might not have enough forces to climb and/or making an emergency stop.

    I am not sure about Sheffield, but a small portion of Lisbon tramways use racks that are at least as hard to maintain as the conducting metal in a LIM system. Most of the images I’ve seen online on the steeper part of Lisbon tram seems to be always appear with a rack.

    Glad to know that SkyTrain only have 7%, I believe this is still acceptable for traditional electric motor. However, whether we could actually put an LRT on it will be depending on how long the slope is as this affect how much safety redundancy is required. In the worth case it may have a strong affect on frequency.

    I am also not sure why you mentioned 8% is a industry standard. In Japan it’s 4%[1][2]. Well maybe Europe are different but I don’t see if the physics could work the other way around :(

    [1] https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E8%B7%AF%E9%9D%A2%E9%9B%BB%E8%BB%8A
    [2] http://www.geocities.jp/hottetsu/unchiku/tetsumame_iida_line.htm

  30. zweisystem says:

    The industry standard for LRT is that it can climb a 8% grade, at max. capacity, stop and start again in all weathers.

    Sheffield has a section with a 10% grade and there has been little problem and of course, Lisbon has 13.9% grades.

    Rain has a negligible effect on adhesion or stopping, anyways most trams are equipped with magnetic track breaks anyways.

    I do not know where you get your information or where they get theirs. but a max. gradient of 4% seems in error.

    Lisbon does not use rack railways, rather on steep sections, there are a selection of funiculars.

  31. Haveacow says:

    4 percent is the standard for mainline railway equipment the world over. Most of Japan’s Metro systems are done to mainline standards so interoperability is possible between lines of both systems.

    Light Rail Vehicles can do 8 percent in Europe. LRV’S designed for the North American market like Bombardier’s Flexity Swift and Alston’s Citidis Spirit generally are designed for 5-6 percent grades however, for extra cost any LRV motor can be upgraded to handle higher grades. It depends on how much the operator wants to deviate from standard parts and costs. Ottawa’s motors were designed to handle 8-10 percent grades because the hilly geography in our core and the need to climb out of the Ottawa Valley when trains head south.

  32. Haveacow says:

    Oh yes, most of the LRV’s designed by Siemens, Bombardier and Alstom have a standard width of 2.65 m but many of the standard models have a slimmer version with a width of 2.35-2.44 m, designed for use on Europe’s many metre guage tram/LRT systems. So a slimmer model for Vancouver is absolutely no problem.

  33. Haveacow says:

    High floor loading is a pain but both Bombardier and Siemens (so Alstom does as well due to the fact that they bought Siemens’s rail division) have high floor versions of their standard LRV’s. Siemens standard S70 model has the high floor S200 LRV, in use in both Calgary and San Francisco. Bombardier lost out to Siemens on the San Francisco competition with their Flexity HF model. Pittsburgh has an LRV with High Floor and Low Floor entrances. Dallas’s Japanese Super LRV’s have a centre low floor module sandwiched between 2 high floor sections.

  34. Haveacow says:

    Nearly all rail based vehicles including the Skytrain have sand dispensers for the times that extra traction is needed. Usually the most efficient system for increased traction going up a hill is just a full train. Leaves and thick grass have always caused adhesion problems even on flat stretches of track. Most rail vehicles, regardless if you put the word light in it’s description are very heavy. When the train’s wheel or flange catches leaves or plants underneath it, they instantly liquify the plant matter causing a pool of slick liquid at or near the point of contact with the rail. This does 2 things, first traction is made difficult, Bence the need for a sand dispenser for each rail. Second is that although the pulverized plants maybe mostly liquid they are a very pulpy liquid which interferes with the electrical circuit that is returning current into the rail. This not only disrupts the electrical circuit, it takes away the ground from the circuit as well. Some systems use a blower that literally blows the stuff off the rails or the sand used has a high silica content which aids in electrical path contact with the rail.