Lies, Damned Lies, and SkyTrain

Dortmund's SkyTrain - no relation to Vancouver's SkyTrain


Ah, the great SkyTrain debate is once again upon us and a Fox News style niche newspaper, the Daily Hive, has decided that SkyTrain is its best friend!

No doubt TransLink is happy, while it is desperately trying to hide the fact that Movia metro is a proprietary railway.

Sorry chums it is.

The latest bit of yellow journalism; Vancouver Councillor claims SkyTrain is a ‘proprietary technology,’ but this is not true, is effectively calling anyone who does not agree with the great Hive or TransLink, is a liar.

Sorry to say, Movia metro is a proprietary light metro system and a rather unsuccessful one at that, with only seven such systems sold in almost forty years.

SkyTrain is the name of the regional metropolitan rail network and not the name of the two very different railways that operate under the SkyTrain umbrella.

Bombardier's rubber tire SkyTrain, operating at Phoenix's airport.

There are several SkyTrain transit systems in the world, from MAGLEV monorails, to airport people movers.

  1. The H-Bahn in Dortmund and Düsseldorf is a suspended, driverless monorail system called SkyTrain.
  2. There is a SkyTrain corporation in the USA, marketing a monorail type system.
  3. The Bangkok Transit System (BTS) is called SkyTrain, yet no relation to Vancouver’s SkyTrain.
  4. The Phoenix, Arizona airport’s rubber tired people mover is called SkyTrain and is built by Bombardier Inc.
  5. China calls its new monorail, SkyTrain.
And the list goes on; all proprietary railways, all Called SkyTrain, incompatible in operation with Movia metro.

BTS SkyTrain in Bangkok, no relation to Movia metro.

Vancouver’s  SkyTrain system consists of a conventional railway (the Canada Line) and an unconventional railway, the now called Movia metro. It is the proprietary Movia metro we are concerned about.

The Movia metro is a proprietary railway which technical patents are owned by Bombardier inc. (cars) and SNC Lavalin own the Engineering patents (viaducts construction). SNC Lavalin inherited the patents when the amalgamated with Lavalin, when the went bankrupt trying to build Advanced Light metro (ALM) in Bangkok Thailand.

The now called Movia metro proprietary railway has had six previous names.

Movia metro was developed by the Ontario Crown Corporation, the Urban Transit Development Corporation and marketed under the name Intermediate Capacity Transit System (ICTS). Only two were built, as modern light rail made ICTS obsolete almost over night.

ICTS was renamed Advanced light Rail Transit (ALRT) and sold to Vancouver in what was then a very dubious business deal. The name change fooled no one, except the then Social Credit government and no other example was built.

The name again was changed to Advanced Light Rapid Transit, to try to deflect the fact it was indeed inferior to LRT.

None were sold.

The UTDC  and ALRT was sold to Lavalin, which changed the name to Automated Light Metro (ALM). Lavalin went bankrupt trying to sell ALM to Bangkok.

SNC amalgamated with Lavalin to form SNC Lavalin and inherited the proprietary ALM system.

SNC Lavalin sold the technical patents to Bombardier Inc., but retained the more lucrative engineering patents.

Bombardier completely rebuilt the poorly designed (ICTS/ALRT/ALM) cars and marketed the vehicles as Advanced Rapid Transit (ART).

Only four were sold, with three being airport/theme park people movers and to Kuala Lumpor, which politicians thought ART was a monorail!  (in fact Kuala Lumpor’s third transit line was indeed a monorail!)

Lack of sales caused Bombardier to fold ART into their Innovia light metro line and after a decade of no interest, Bombardier folded Innovia into their Movia metro line with linear Induction Motors as a customer add on.

Movia metro is indeed a proprietary railway as it is powered by Linear induction Motors and in fact it is powered by attractive LIM’s. Attractive LIM’s have been rejected elsewhere as being power consumptive.

Movia metro is only compatible in operation within its family of of seven ICTS/ALRT/ART systems operating. The Canada Line, a conventional railway cannot operate on the Expo or Millennium lines and Movia metro cannot operate on the Canada Line. This is the hallmark of a proprietary railway.

No other company produces off the shelf  Expo or Millennium Line compatible cars (though they could provide cars if LIM propulsion were to be discarded) and to do so would cost a sizable amount of money by developing the trucks to accept the LIMs and develop a lightly constructed body shell and then safety case the cars to satisfy Transport Canada.

The cost to do this is around $60 million and as Vancouver is the only remaining customer for the obsolete proprietary light metro, why waste the money! This gives Bombardier a financial edge in any P-3 and the same is true for SNC Lavalin who have the technical patents for the viaducts and subway.

Footnote: Automatic train control is a signalling issue and not technology issue. ATC is very expensive and only used on transit systems which see traffic flows in excess of around 20,000 pphpd. ATC is also one of the reasons SkyTrain is expensive to operate.

In Vancouver, Movia metro’s capacity is limited to 15,000 pphpd, by Transport Canada’s Operating Certificate and to increase capacity around $3 billion must be spent to rehab the line to allow higher capacities.

As for Colleen Hardwick being a skeptic of SkyTrain, especially the Movia metro,  Zwei again is reminding everyone that Movia metro has been on the market for over 40 years, showcased at Expo 86, one of the most studied proprietary railways in the world, yet only 7 were built, and only three seriously used for urban transport.

Toronto is soon to tear theirs down, due to it being both a proprietary and expensive to operate, as well, the guideway will soon be life expired and costly to update. Bombardier and SNC Lavalin are also embroiled in a corruption scandals in Kuala Lumpor and in Yougin Korea.

To conclude, Movia Metro (Expo and Millennium line) is a classic proprietary railway; the question is: “Why is TransLink, using the gullible Hive, trying to deny this?”


14 Responses to “Lies, Damned Lies, and SkyTrain”
  1. Causa Causans says:

    Nice history. The UTDC tried to sell your SkyTrain to Milan. yet the nice stories that went along with it were later shown to be fiction and they did not use this date transit system with sardine can cars.

    We laughed at Bombardier’s attempt to peddle SkyTrain.

    We have VAL, but far sited politicians saw that the cost to build and maintain VAL would a lot higher and VAL lost its market.

    Your politicians are not so brave and continue doing the impossible and reaping the rewards.

  2. John Wright says:

    This is a very informative article. I always say follow the money. Just saying…..

  3. McCreery Bill says:

    My FB comment:

    Let’s have a look at what this Bee Hive article actually says. The article claims that what Councillor Colleen Hardwick is saying is false. Who in fact is speaking truthfully in this matter?

    D.M. Johnston has said:
    “@TonyMasters SNC Lavalin own the engineering patents for the proprietary Innovia ART (SkyTrain) system. They make much more money building SkyTrain, than Bombardier, who own the technical patents who make the cars.”

    So, until there is something more definitive than this let’s accept this as being fact. As well as I’ve said above, engineers have copyright protection for all their designs as do architects for another example. Therefore, whether SNC Lavalin and Bombardier have patents or not, they still have copyright protection. It seems this whole argument about patents is a diversionary tactic on the part of the Busy Bee Hive to confuse a fair and reasoned consideration of Councillor Hardwick’s motion.

    Excerpts from the article:

    • “nearly all of its details relate directly to TransLink and the provincial government.”

    So what? This is background information.

    • “[Skytrain] is not a propriety technology nor do these two companies hold any patents on it.”


    • “Hitachi and Kawasaki Heavy Industries” manufacture LIM trains.

    This is incorrect and irrelevant, SNC Lavalin and Bombardier do own the patents and/or copyrights for their designs and they do have the manufacturing infastructure in place to deliver the guideway and vehicles that are required to seamlessly integrate with the existing SkyTrain technologies and systems. It would be difficult for any other potential supplier to be able to do this without having to pay royalties, as well as, incurring significant design and manufacturing setup costs. This has little or nothing to do with Councillor Hardwick’s motion.

    The term proprietary is defined as:

    relating to an owner or ownership. “the company has a proprietary right to the property”

    ◦ (of a product) marketed under and protected by a registered trade name. “proprietary”

    ◦ behaving as if one were the owner of someone or something. “he looked about him with a proprietary air”

    proprietary; plural noun: proprietaries
    1 1.
    an owner; proprietor.

    Therefore, as I previously said above in this post and have further clarified here, SNC Lavalin and Bombardier do have patents and/or copyright for their designs and products.

    •“The benefits of automated rapid transit technology are being recognized around the globe.” … and repeated several times more in this article,


    • “Automation is becoming the new norm for subways”

    Other diversions. This has nothing to do with Councillor Hardwick’s motion. Automated rapid transit technology can be used on any transit system, the Canada Line being another example.

    “Future SkyTrain projects [do not] depend on SNC-Lavalin’s future”

    • “Yes, the Canada Line was designed, built, and partially-funded by a private sector consortium led by SNC-Lavalin, and the company also holds a 35-year operating and maintenance contract for this particular line” [being the existing Expo and Millennium Lines], and “SNC-Lavalin was also selected as the main construction contractor of the Millennium Line’s Evergreen Extension,…”.

    However, then TransLink’s Drews said:

    • “We believe Councillor Hardwick is referring to the concessionaire agreement in place for the operation of the Canada Line. InTransit BC, a consortium partly owned by SNC-Lavalin, is contracted to provide these services for the Canada Line until 2040.”

    So, contrary to the Hive’s contention to the contrary, the Hive and TransLink’s Drews have confirmed that Councillor Hardwick’s suggestion in her motion that SNC-Lavalin and Bombardier have a deep contractual involvement in the design, manufacturing, installation and maintenance of the existing SkyTrain system.

    And in these circular attempts to confuse this matter, clearly their suggestion that
    “Vancouver Councillor claims SkyTrain is a ‘proprietary technology,’ but this is not true”
    is not true.

  4. zweisystem says:

    Thank you for a concise explanation of events.

    The vitriol on the Hive, re SkyTrain clouds proper judgement and debate.

    What I find interesting is that it was excepted until recently that ICTS; ALRT; ART were indeed proprietary transit systems. Now they are not. Why?

  5. Haveacow says:

    I made the comment as well that, the real problem is that Bombardier can decide to end it’s contract with Translink if they do try to find other suppliers of Skytrain trains and spare parts. As Bill Mcreery said, other companies will have to pay royalties to both Bombardier and SNC Lavlin, I know for fact that, those charges and royalties would make just about any non Bombardier product so expensive to build, test, operate and maintain, it’s really not worth it for other companies to even try to offer a product. Unless, a great deal of the Bombardier and SNC Lavlin technologies are removed from the operating right of way. Translink’s former maintenance chief often commented that removing the LIM motors and the induction rail and replacing it with standard electric motors would greatly reduce the maintenance load and at the lowest, cut maintenance costs by 1/3.

  6. Haveacow says:

    A few old friends at Bombardier saw this post and the Hive article and wanted to add that, Movia is a heavy rail (subway/metro) product only! The people who designed and tested the Movia Line of products would never consider the old Innovia Automated Light Metro product line (Skytrain) as something equivalent to what they built. The Movia product line is a top selling world beating heavy rail vehicle that has been purchased my many transit operators around the world. Innovia has nothing to do with their Movia products and are highly resentful that Bombardier put it in this group. They suggested that it be put with the Monorail and People Mover Systems Division instead.

  7. steve says:

    I do not know if it is sad or scarey that so many comments at the Hive have drunk the Translink kool aid. I guess years of media brainwashing does that. If what is localled ‘SkyTrain’ is so great why is no one buying?

    Zwei replies: I agree, what is so shocking, that instead of dealing with facts, the SkyTrain lobby desperately try to alter history to suit their own ends.

    There should be no debate that SkyTrain is a proprietary railway, as only Bombardier make compatible vehicles. Not one manufacturer has an “off the shelf” ART Movia metro car. It is is the hallmark of a proprietary railway.

  8. zweisystem says:

    Just a note, several people who have posted have left threatening posts against me and my family. I will not stand for it and will take further action if it persists. Remember, I do have your IP number.

  9. Kylie says:

    The only lies is from this website. Movia is not a proprietary light metro. According to Bombardiers website. Movia is used all over the world in the largest cities. The London underground use Movia metro. It is not light rail. London has plans to upgrade many subway lines to automatic trains which will increase capacity.

    Extending skytrain will be great for Vancouver. It is fast and efficient way to get around Vancouver. It will be much faster than any lrt or tram.

    Looks like a Vancouver city councilor (Hardwick) is friends with the rail for the valley promoters.

    Zwei replies: ART (now called Movia metro) was previously called Innovia metro, ART, ALM, ALRT (2 versions) and ICTS. Only seven were built. Not one new ART Movia metro has been built in the past decade.

    Your ignorance of transit is so typical of those who support SkyTrain and help make metro Vancouver an international laughing stock.

  10. Causa Causans says:

    Kylie, please read some transit studies before you make such statements.

    You confuse your SkyTrain with metro, it is not, it is a failed family of transit that was supposed to replace the tram, but the opposite happened, the tram replaced it.

    Read the history of the Mongy as it was the Mongy that proved itself a superior transit mode than our VAL system.

    The Mongy was the mouse that roared against light metro and won.

  11. Haveacow says:

    Kylie, Skytrain was put into the Movia Line of products (a traditional heavy rail subway/metro train system) by Bombardier only 5 months ago because it has nowhere else to put it. It didn’t fit in with the LRT Flexity line of products (over 3000 units sold worldwide). No one and I mean no one wants to be in the Monorail and People Mover division. Unfortunately, this division is known inside Bombardier as “The kiss of death division”, essentially where most rail transit products go to die. This inclusion of the Skytrain product into the Movia Line is a significant signal that, on its own as a separate product (formerly the Innovia Automated Light Metro Transportation System) Skytrain can’t sell without the help. In this case, the help of being put in a basket of great selling heavy rail metro and subway train products, The Movia Line.

    This is what happens when only 900 cars have been sold in 40 years! After Vancouver and Kuala Lumpur get their present orders, there are no more new orders have come in for it. Most of its important component parts, the steerable trucks, LIM propulsion units, signal processing systems and it’s weird little wheels have big issues with their parent company. All the components I mentioned aren’t even made by Bombardier anymore but a huge web of subcontractors that will be nearly impossible to reassemble if Bombardier ends production of this vehicle.

    Unfortunately, many of the new universally used train components and subsystems that Bombardier has on its LRT, Heavy Rail, Commuter and Regional Rail Products as well as the Moderate and High Speed Intercity Train products, can’t be used on the Skytrain system because of basic size and design issues, the propulsion system, the clumsy, Citiflo 650 Automated Operating System, most of the new available signaling technology is totally incompatible with it without heavy and extensive hardware modifications heck, even the new door designs and body shell products have been problematic when adapting them to those strange little trains.

    All of the above mentioned issues I have brought up, especially the low numbers of new orders, are why the Montreal area facility that does most of the heavy manufacturing for the Skytrain will be shutting down its production lines (when the current orders are complete) that were kept open for furure possible Skytrain orders over the last 2 decades and retooled for other more pressing orders. It means that any orders afterwards, will have to wait somewhere for an open production line somewhere and then add the cost of retooling the line to the vehicle’s final cost to Translink. This is one of the reasons other Rail car producers like Kawasaki or Hitachi are highly unlikely to want to bid on future Skytrain orders. They will still have to pay royalties and fees to the patent owners on top of everything else they have to pay for like prototype manufacturing, safety testing because they are new vehicles and will require static and dynamic safety testing to be sold and operate in Canada, the USA and Europe before manufacturing can even begin.

    Unfortunately, Skytrain now has actually become a “Niche Transit Product”, like the Trolley Bus. This in my opinion is worse than being labeled as “Proprietary”, because everyone expects to pay more for a niche product. So Skytrain has become a niche transit product and like all niche transit products, expect low production numbers and very high manufacturing costs, inconsistent quality and quantity availability. On top of that, a higher operating cost compared to other products, like BRT or LRT systems.

  12. Kylie says:

    I am not ignorant. I have travelled all over the world. Subway will always be faster than any LRT or tram. Been to Toronto many times and their trams are slow. Their subway is fast. London, England has trams and subways. The subways are faster than the trams. Been all over Europe and rode the trams and they are slow. A tram can only be fast if placed in its own right of way or elevated or in tunnel. On broadway, a tunnel is the only way because no one will accept surface trains on broadway.

    Zwei replies: Er no. Subways tend to faster because they have fewer stations.

    Obviously you have not been to Karlsrhue because their TramTrain is a lot faster than a subway!

    As for trams on Broadway, if the subway rockets out of budget, a surface tramway will combine capacity and affordability.

    To repeat, LRT is not slow as it operated on a dedicated R-o-W.

  13. Haveacow says:

    Kylie, I have worked as a consulting planner in the industry for 25 years. I grew up in Toronto my second summer job as a student was being a lineman crew for the TTC Streetcar system. Trams and Streetcars are slow because they operate in mixed traffic. LRT on the other hand, operates on its own physically seperated right of way. Running on the surface saves money and makes the stations more easily accessible. It also makes them (the LRT lines) cheaper to operate than the Skytrain. They can also, contrary to what Translink says, can hold and move more passengers than Skytrain as well.That’s if the designers of the LRT system want it to hold and move more passengers than Skytrain. They will accept surface trains on Broadway if you tell people it’s to actually reduce car traffic and bring better rapid transit.

    In the 1950’s & 1960’s, before the opening of the Bloor-Danforth Subway in Toronto, the Bloor-Danforth Streetcar Line operating with pairs of P.C.C. Streetcars, moved in mixed traffic, 12500 passengers/hour/direction roughly the same as the average peak hour traffic on the Expo Line. The point is that, if you have the political desire, it’s quite easy to tell car drivers, “sorry car drivers, you are losing two out of four car lanes!”


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