Old News, But Where Is The Funding?

Thanks to Mr. Cow, Rail for the Valley knew about this over five years ago. RftV knew that the current Edmonds yard was near capacity and a new yard had to be built to accommodate the new cars as far back as 2016.

Couple of items ignored with this story, which is nothing more than the Daily Hive treating TransLink’s news releases as real news.
Alstom has now bought Bombardier’s rail division, thus they are the new owners of the proprietary railway and it is unclear whether Alstom has acquired the technical patents owned by Bombardier or the engineering patents from SNC Lavalin.
Bombardier is the sole builder and supplier of what is now called Movia Automatic Light Metro (MALM), which has been marketed under five previous names (Movia > Innovia > ART > ALM > ALRT > ICTS. Thus, it is no surprise that they won the contract, but that means nothing, the real story is, how many of these cars have been paid for as Alstom, a French company, has indicated they will only honour the contract for paid cars and it is unclear how many of the replacement cars have been paid for.
For those who protest that MALM is not proprietary, the big question is, who was the under bidder and what was the under bidder’s bid? If the the bid was more than 20% higher, then MALm is indeed proprietary and the bidding process was nothing more than a “mock auction.”
A mock auction is a scam usually operated in a street market, disposal sale or similar environment, where cheap and low quality goods are sold at high prices by a team of confidence tricksters.
The other big issue is that the Expo line desperately needs to be rehabbed before capacity can be increased beyond 15,000 pphpd. The cost form this is around $2 billion for a “cheap-jack” job to $3 billion and includes a new electrical supply; a new singling system as Bombardier has stopped supporting their proprietary Citiflow automatic train control system; a complete overhaul of the guideway and new high speed switches.
We must remember, that in an age of unprecedented investment in regional rail transit, only 7 such systems have been sold and built in the past 40 years; only three and soon to be two, systems were actually built for urban transit; two were built as airport people movers (heavily subsidized by the Canadian government); two have involved Bombardier and SNC Lavalin in corruption scandals; one is a one car operation connecting to a theme park and one is a single track demonstration line.
The big question everyone is tiptoeing around is funding. From Zwei’s viewpoint, politcal promises have been made; photo-ops have happened; and ribbons and shovels at the ready for the next election, but there has been no follow with actual funding!
Today, the MALM and extending MALM is the great election gambit, which has worked for now, almost 40 years and looks good for about two more election cycles.
It is time the Daily Hive stop reporting TransLink puff stories and start being a real newspaper doing investigative reporting.

The cost of the Skytrain light-metro is now over $200 mil/km to build.

TransLink planning $300 million SkyTrain maintenance centre in Coquitlam

Kenneth Chan

Mar 9 2021
The region’s expanding SkyTrain car fleet demands the use of more real estate immediately adjacent to the train lines to fulfill growing storage and maintenance requirements.

To that end, Coquitlam has been identified by TransLink as the location of one of two new additional SkyTrain operations and maintenance centres (OMC) that will be built this decade. TransLink is estimating the significant new train yard and maintenance hub will cost about $300 million.

This Coquitlam OMC (OMC 4) is in addition to the planned major OMC on a roughly five-acre site in eastern Surrey or Langley for the second stage of the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain (SLS) extension of the Expo Line.

A spokesperson for TransLink told Daily Hive Urbanized that both facilities are needed, with the Coquitlam OMC used to support the new SkyTrain cars on order for the Millennium Line and the first stage of the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain Expo Line extension reaching Fleetwood.

The fully built SLS project will add 55 cars (11 five-car trains) to the Expo Line, with 25 cars (five five-car trains) set for the first stage reaching Fleetwood if the extension ending in Langley Centre is built in two stages.

In December 2020, TransLink announced it had selected Bombardier to fulfill an order of 205 new additional and replacement SkyTrain cars (41 five-car trains) at a cost of $723 million, including 125 new cars (25 five-car trains) to retire the original fleet of 150 Mark I cars and for the capacity increases needed by 2025 in time for the opening of the Millennium Line Broadway Extension to Arbutus, and another 80 new cars to improve overall capacity on the Expo and Millennium lines.

Aerial view of Edmonds OMC (OMC1

Both precise locations for the new OMCs have not been disclosed at this time.

It is unclear whether the new OMC in Coquitlam could be an expansion of the existing small OMC at Falcon Drive (OMC 3) — between Inlet Centre Station and Coquitlam Central Station — built for the Evergreen Extension. Last year, TransLink completed a minor expansion of this OMC to the west of the existing facility at a cost of $21 million, increasing its storage capacity by up to approximately 30 cars.

The area immediately north of OMC 3, owned by BC Hydro, is largely undeveloped with only a minor office building and surface parking. The adjacent industrial sites are occupied by warehouse-type structures.

Last year, the City of Coquitlam approved a new city centre plan that called for setting aside space for a future additional Millennium Line station in the area of Falcon Drive. This would be supported by encouraging more dense development in the area.

Aerial view of the existing Falcon Drive OMC3 on the Millennium Line’s Evergreen extension in Coquitlam. (Google Maps)

As for the Surrey-Langley OMC, its cost will be covered by the SLS project budget, which has yet to be formally funded, although the provincial government has stated building the entire project in a single phase is now a priority for them.




9 Responses to “Old News, But Where Is The Funding?”
  1. Haveacow says:

    Yes, Alstom now owns Bombardier’s patents, thanks to their stock purchase. However, they won’t own SNC Lavalin’s engineering patents. I am sure SNC will gladly work with Alstom, this is something they have done many times before on numerous different projects, spanning multiple types of infrastructure, engineering and commercial contracts.

    “TransLink planning $300 million SkyTrain maintenance centre in Coquitlam”, To Zwei and everybody else, whenever the word “planning” is used in these titles, this way, it generally means there is no funding yet (90% of the time anyway).

    Now the article by Kenneth Chan points out that, the new yard for the Surrey to Langley stage 2 Skytrain extension project (the entire project) including an OMC#5, isn’t paid for,

    “the Surrey-Langley OMC, its cost will be covered by the SLS project budget, which has yet to be formally funded”.

    The Coquitlam Yard or OMC #4 (cost: $300,000,000) is needed to house Skytrains for both the Broadway and Fleetwood extension projects, as per the article,

    “A spokesperson for TransLink told Daily Hive Urbanized that both facilities are needed, with the Coquitlam OMC used to support the new SkyTrain cars on order for the Millennium Line and the first stage of the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain Expo Line extension reaching Fleetwood.”

    It would be logical to assume that, the funding for the yard project was part of the second stage funding in Translink’s 10 year plan, but I don’t know for sure, the yard wasn’t specifically mentioned as part of stage 1 or 2? If the funding wasn’t included as a part (stage 1 or 2) of the 10 year plan, than this is one of the bigger rail transit planning goofs in recent history.

    The OMC#4 sounds basically like a cheap storage yard and may include only the very lightest of maintenance abilities. Although, $300 million sounds like a lot of money, if you start adding the cost of real vehicle maintenance equipment on top of, even a small to moderately sized rail storage yard, the $300 million disappears really fast.

    As for the trains themselves I’m sure Translink is reviewing everything regarding costs, especially now that Bombardier was gobbled up by Alstom.

    The current delay in the news of the tendering of the Fleetwood Skytrain line extension project (originally due in February 2021), may be not only due to COVID-19 related problems but finding money for that $300 million rail yard too. Again, I don’t know for sure?

    Lastly, for those who actually believe your provincial government will provide enough capital funding so that you can build your entire Skytrain extension to Langley in one stage and not in 2 stages, better sit down and understand this next statement.

    Unless your provincial government is willing to kick in their entire share of the $1.6 Billion extension from Fleetwood to Langley, covering Translink’s and the federal government’s portions, then you will be waiting for a federal funding announcement sometime after 2021, late 2022 to early 2023 most likely. That is when the new Federal Infrastructure Fund/Bank will be ready to go. That means, funding delivery (actually sending the cash) and final engineering project won’t be ready to mid 2023. You have to add about a year from the date of the funding announcement to allow for a legal bidding process plus, allowing another 6 months for the winning bidder to get construction permits and equipment leased. That’s a construction start around late 2024 or early 2025. This assumes people in Vancouver won’t want the Skytrain extension to UBC to occur. At best a single stage opening date of a line to Langley with the federal government involved is around 2029 or 2030,

    Without the feds and the BC government covering everything, at best a 2023 start date for construction and completion around late 2028 or 2029. This assumes elections both provincially and federally don’t derail the process completely.

    All this instead of an LRT network, (2 lines) who’s first stage would have open in 2025 and a larger second stage open in 2028 or 2029 for less cash and easier implementation.

  2. Bill Burgess says:

    Zwei, it really is past time to give up your “Skytrain is proprietary” hobby horse, so this blog can focus on more worthwhile criticism of Skytrain and transit planning.

    That the 20% difference in bid amounts means “proprietary” is an invention on your part. And quite apart from your 20% figure, “proprietary” is about holding an exclusive legal ownership right, not an economicor cost advantage.

    On the latter issue, you have not refuted clear statements like, “The patent [Bombardier’s] for LIM technology has…expired
    (see https://www.translink.ca/-/media/translink/documents/about-translink/governance-and-board/board-of-directors/board-minutes-and-reports/2020/december/2020_12_17_public_board_meeting_agenda.pdf), and, “There are several manufactures with systems…of similar size and complexity” as the Thales [not Bombardier] – owned control system used by Skytrain (see https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/2019-05-06-skytrain-and-competitive-bidding-process.pdf ).

    Consistent with the above, two rail manufacturers other than Bombardier expressed interest in supplying the 205 and possibly more new cars, and one manufacturer other than Bombardier submitted a full bid (see the first link above). I don’t doubt that Bombardier enjoyed the advantage of incumbency, but preparing bids is an extensive, costly process. No one would do it just to help prove that Zweist claims of a proprietary lock on Skytrain are wrong.

    And if you can’t cite evidence that engineering patents (still) held by SNC Lavalin and why substitutes are not possible you should stop repeating that one too.

    Zwei replies: You don’t get it Bill, because you do not ant too.

    Being proprietary means the taxpayer is spending more money for a product and if the supplier ceases production, the taxpayer has to ante up more.

    First of all, the LIM’s we use, attractive, are far more costly to operate than, repulsive LIM’s and came from the problematic Kauss Maeffi, Transurban MAGLEV, via the UTDC. It is not the LIM’s which are patented, it is the technology that makes the LIM’s work, with the truck used. And those have not expired.

    As for finding the patents, I do not have the time or money to file FOI’s.

    With LRT, a host of companies can operate their trams on the same track, no problems. Portland, operates off the shelf trams from at least four different companies, no problem, but in Vancouver we can’t, we are stuck with one supplier and no one produces compatible vehicles. to do so would meant they would have to design a truck, to accept a LIM, test it, have Transport Canada approve it, or buy them under license from Bombardier and now Alstom.

    As for evidence sunshine, it is right there, under your nose – NO ONE PRODUCES A COMPATIBLE CAR TO OPERATE ON THE EXPO AND MILLENNIUM LINES EXCEPT, NOW, ALSTOM.

    Why not?

  3. zweisystem says:

    By the way Bill, I do not believe anything that comes from the mayor’s Council on Transit or TransLink. Remember they continue to tell the public that Broadway is the most heavily used transit route in Canada and the United States, yet fail to mention that the maximum traffic flows on Broadway are under 4,000 pphpd, about 11,000 pphpd short of the North American standard for building a subway. Also the fail to mention that mode share by transit is dropping (pre-covid) and instead claim very high and very inaccurate “Boarding’s” to further fool both politicians and the public.

  4. Major Hoople says:

    We are constantly amazed how those on your side of the pond love to distort facts to suit politcal needs. This just would not be tolerated in Euro countries.

    Your SkyTrain is not the brand name for the grade separated rapid transit system in Metro Vancouver, it is the name of your regional light metro system, a name shared with several light-metro systems, such as Bangkok, which also calls its elevated metro system SkyTrain. Elevated railways tend to be called SkyTrain.

    Previously, what you mistakenly call SkyTrain was marketed first as Intermediate Capacity Transit System; then 2)Advanced Light Rail Transit; and so on 3) Advanced Light Metro; 4) Advanced Rapid Transit; 5) Innovia Rapid Transit; 6) Movia Automatic Light Metro. Four companies have now owned this proprietary railway, 1) The Urban Transportation Development Corporation; 2) Lavalin; 3) Bombardier; 4) and now Alstom. Not one has ever marketed the system as SkyTrain.

    The Brand name SkyTrain was for a rubber tire airport people mover system, formerly marketed by Bombardier Inc. and is no relation to your railway.

    The proprietary trains used on the Expo and Millennium line are only supplied by Bombardier and now Alstom, who have purchased Bombardier’s rail division. No one builds off the shelf compatible vehicles that can operate on the E&M Lines. Other companies can build cars, but they must design the vehicles from scratch, including a LIM compatible steerable axle truck or build them under license from, now, Alstom.

    As I said before, “one does not slap a LIM on a bogie and expect it to work.

    This is verbal trickery at its best, the technical and engineering patents are not for the cars or LIM’s, as what is trying to be inferred, but with the application of the LIM acceptable, self steering trucks and their interface with the rails and engineering needs to make a smooth operation. The MALM system is an unconventional railway (railway being the technology) and being unconventional, they are not compatible with any other railway, in operation, except the small family of seven such systems.

    This deception, and this is what this is, borders on many legal issues and may leave the City of Vancouver on the hook if any legal “SkyTrain/subway issues arise in the future, if a group engages a good legal team! Certainly here, whoever penned that memo to council, would not be working and in fact would be faced with serious legal problems.

  5. Sammy says:

    Translink just bought a 27 acre propery at 225 North Road near Braid station on the Expo line. Translink acquired the site for $82.5 million on March 11, 2020


    A completion of the OMC is anticipated towards the middle of this decade to accommodate the surge in the new generation of longer trains, and the opening of the Broadway Extension to Arbutus, which is expected in 2025. All of the new train cars will arrive by 2027.

    Zwei Replies: Old news again, as the TransLink is using the Hive for its propaganda services. The property was secured a while ago but the question of funding has not been answered.

    TransLink and the NDP are hoping (in vain) that the Federal Liberals will fund this grand dreams, but with so many other cities wanting transit money, the best the province will get is about $400K!

    There is no real news in the Hive, just rehashed stories already coverd.

  6. Sammy says:

    Federal government have already agreed to fund the skytrain extensions. New maintenance and storage is included in budget.

    The daily hive is not old news. Rail for the valley is old news by old persons.

    Zwei replies: Er, no. The Federal government paid I believe 40% for the current $4.6 billion, 12.8km expansion to the Expo and Millennium lines. As Mr. Cow noted above, due to inflation of property values, TransLink cannot pay for the entire project. The federal government has not funded any other extension to the light-metro system.

  7. Haveacow says:

    Yes, I found out that the budget for OMC 4 was covered by funds from Stage 2 of the Translink 10 year plan. However, the problem or issue has been that due to increased property costs the originally budgeted amount only covers percentage of the project, not the entire thing. My guess is they will build a yard with storage buildings but no maintenance facilities beyond a washing room. It’s the maintenance facility that is the expensive part.

    You see any spending on a project that requires Translink to pay for it’s portion is under review because of the loss passenger revenues during the pandemic. The emergency relief that the federal government is offering only pays for operational costs not capital costs and upgrades to existing facilities.

  8. Haveacow says:

    Airport Authorities across the country are in trouble because there are many construction projects that they were to partially pay for in cooperation with local governments and transit agencies. Due to the pandemic, airport authorities have lost a majority of their revenue.

    For example, in both Montreal and here in Ottawa, airport transit lines are being built that may end up with no airport station because the airport authorities where supposed to pay for the building of the stations. With only paltry levels of travel taking place, the airports are in massive financial holes missing up to 80% of their expected revenues in 2020.

  9. zweisystem says:

    Thank you very much for your updates and input, very much appreciated.

    There are some very troubling times ahead for TransLink and the bureaucracy is gravely concerned and maybe why former CEO Desmond left “quick march”!

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