Second LRT vehicle delivery delayed to late August at earliest

The second Ion LRT vehicle has been delayed to the end of August or early September, instead of planned delivery by the end of June. That's so more work can be done to make the vehicle functional, according to the region's transportation commissioner.

Vehicle was scheduled to arrive in June, will now arrive in late August or early September

The Region of Waterloo's first light rail vehicle is seen here parked on the tracks at the ION operations facility in Waterloo. The vehicle itself is not functional and there is work to be done by both Bombardier and Grandlinq to get it to the point where it could be used. (Jackie Sharkey/CBC)

The second Ion LRT vehicle has been delayed to the end of August or early September, instead of planned delivery by the end of June, according to a memo by the region's transportation commissioner presented to regional council's planning and works committee on Tuesday.

In the memo, Thomas Schmidt said regional staff were in Kingston, Ont., during the week of June 12 to see Vehicle 2 undergo testing. In addition, members of the rapid transit steering committee met with Bombardier executives to discuss the timing and status of vehicle deliveries.

As a result, the region is delaying preliminary acceptance of the vehicles, because they are "not yet at the desired level of functionality," according to the memo. The trains still need modifications to the "braking system, propulsion, and the train control and management system." 

Tom Galloway, chair of the Region of Waterloo's planning and works committee, said the delay is necessary.

"The community was told we were going to get our second vehicle at the end of June. Well, we could've gotten our second vehicle at the end of June, it would've come in at much better shape than the first vehicle, but it's better that it stays in Kingston until August, September and comes to us at a higher level of functionality," Galloway said in an interview with CBC News.

"We don't intend now to take delivery of vehicles until they're at least that functional. We don't need to be a parking lot for their vehicles," he said. "And there are some other of contractual issues, like when do warranties start? And we don't want the warranties to start until they're functional." 

But, Galloway cautioned, the overall schedule for when regional residents will be able to ride the LRT hasn't been adjusted.

"We're still looking at spring of 2018 for service," he said.

A photo tweeted by the @rideIONrt account showed the first ION car as it was being prepared for its trip to Waterloo region from Bombardier's Thunder Bay plant. The train left the plant Thursday morning at 6 a.m. (@rideIONrt/Twitter)

Work to be done

Grandlinq also still has work to do before the LRT vehicles can be even tested on the tracks, Galloway said.

"There's some engineering that has to be done between Bombardier and Grandlinq in order to install the ... automatic train protection system, which marries up the equipment that Grandlinq has installed in the track with the vehicle, so they can talk to each other," he said.

"That's not a Bombardier responsibility, that's a Grandlinq responsibility. But engineering needs to be done in order to incorporate those pieces onto the Bombardier vehicle. That's not going as quickly as possible."

"Work on the car itself is entirely completed in terms of manufacturing. What we're doing now is finishing up the routine testing of the vehicle," said Marc-Andre Lefebvre, the head of communications for Bombardier. He said those tests are usually carried out in the field, but Bombardier had agreed to do the rest of the testing at the manufacturing facility in Kingston. 

"If any items come up, any adjustments need to be done on the car, we'll do it directly at our manufacturing facility, so we'll be able to ensure a faster integration of the cars into the network."

Timeline updates

If all goes according to plan, regional residents could see an LRT vehicle on the tracks for testing in the fall, after Vehicle 2 is delivered.

According to the memo prepared by Schmidt, Bombardier is making progress on the LRT vehicles three to nine, and Vehicle 3 is close to the same level of completion as Vehicle 2. 

Lefebvre said that currently Vehicle 3 is 95 per cent complete and Vehicle 4 is 85 per cent complete.

"We can confirm that production currently remains on schedule for the planned start of service of the Ion transit system, he said.

The first LRT vehicle currently in the region is not functional, "nor did we expect it to be," Galloway said, who specified the vehicle was delivered in order for testing to be done on the operations, maintenance and storage facility (OMSF).

"It's been good from that point of view to be able to test the building and the tolerances within the building." 

That LRT vehicle was manufactured in Thunder Bay, and while some progress has been made on improving that vehicle's functionality, Bombardier hasn't been able to get it to the same point as Vehicle 2, made in the Kingston facility, Schmidt wrote. 

According to Lefebvre, the goal is to have all of the preliminary testing done on Vehicle 1 by the end of July, so that the vehicle can go through dynamic testing. Dynamic testing involves a few items, but the main point is to progressively push the power on the cars, he said.

"Basically we'll go from 1 km an hour to its maximum speed of at around 80 kilometres an hour. And so we'll do it on different types of acceleration tests, to make sure we go from a quick acceleration to a progressive and do dynamic testing on the brake systems also," he said.

Lefebvre said Bombardier also needs some parts from Grandlinq to be able to do field testing for Vehicle 1.

Steps to getting an LRT vehicle built

Bombardier's schedule of delivery says that Vehicle 14 (and all previous vehicles) should be delivered by December 2017.

Here are the steps, detailed in the memo, that it takes to build an LRT vehicle:

  • Complete testing of the pilot vehicles.
  • Vehicle sub-assemblies are completed in various locations (Mexico, Thunder Bay, Germany etc.).
  • The full vehicle is assembled in Kingston.
  • The vehicle undergoes a series of (preliminary acceptance) tests, and once it passes these tests, it can be shipped to the region.
  • Additional equipment is installed by Grandlinq (e.g. train control systems (ATP) is installed on the vehicle — either in Kingston or at the OMSF).
  • The vehicle undergoes additional commissioning and acceptance testing in the region, including a burn in period of 600 kilometres.

About the Author

Andrea Bellemare is a reporter and producer with CBC News who currently focuses on disinformation, tech and privacy. She helped launch the new CBC Kitchener-Waterloo radio station in 2013, reported for CBC Montreal and produced radio docs for CBC Radio. She has also reported for the wire service Agence France-Presse.


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