Bombardier exec apologizes to TTC over delivery of faulty streetcars

Bombardier's head of transportation appeared at a Toronto Transit Commission board meeting to offer his apologies for the latest problems with the streetcars his company delivered to the city.

Fixing 67 flawed streetcars will take until 2022, but TTC foresees no disruption in service

Benoit Brossoit, president of Bombardier Transportation for the Americas, apologizes at the TTC board meeting on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Chris Langenzarde/CBC)

The president of Bombardier Transportation made his first appearance at Toronto's transit commission board meeting on Tuesday and apologized for the latest problems with the streetcars his company delivered to the city.

"We understand and share the disappointment of the mayor, the board and the TTC riders. We truly apologize," said Benoit Brossoit. 

The transit authority said last week that the first 67 of 89 streetcars would be sent back for preventative repairs due to a welding issue.

Although the majority of streetcars will be sent back to Bombardier's Welding Centre of Excellence in La Pocatiere, Que., Brossoit said the issue poses no safety risk to riders and staff members taking the TTC streetcars.

"Bombardier is Canadian and we are committed to Ontario," said Brossoit, adding that all measures had been taken to fix this production issue.

To minimize the effect on service, only three or four cars will be repaired at a time. The shipping and repairs of the cars should take 19 weeks to be completed.

The problem was identified by Bombardier 18 months ago and involves work completed in Mexico.

Bombardier's chief operating officer David Van der Wee told the board that the level of complexity of building the TTC streetcars was higher than expected. He assured the board that the root causes of the issue have been corrected. 
Problems with Bombardier streetcars have been a source of frustration for the TTC and its riders. (Doug Ives/Canadian Press)

"When narrowing down the issue to 67 cars, I want to highlight that we work with very conservative assumptions, always to be on the safe side of things," he said.

Programs like this are complex and full of challenges, said Brossoit.

"Our commitment is to deliver on our promises, but, also to make it right when situation like this occur," he said. "Bombardier stands by its product. Always, no compromise," he added.

The delays and recent production issues in the $1-billion order has caused frustration on the part of the board members, the TTC riders and the mayor.

TTC Chair Josh Colle said the streetcars were needed as soon as possible to serve passengers and replace the older ones.

"I strongly recommend you take a ride on some of those crowded, leaky, beasts of streetcars that are serving our passengers right now," he told them. 
TTC chair Josh Colle said Tuesday that he invited Bombardier to the board meeting and that he appreciated their appearance. (Chris Langenzarde/CBC)

TTC board member Rick Byers asked the president of Bombardier whether he should be trusted when telling the board that no more delays are expected.

Byers said it had been an "unbelievably frustrating experience for the people in this commission, but more importantly for the riders."

"For us to have had to defend you, as I have had to do, it has been difficult," he said.

Brossoit reassured the board that despite the repeated delays and recent production problems, the streetcars were his main focus and have been so since he started on the job.

'A sign of good will'

Colle told reporters Tuesday that he invited Bombardier to the board meeting and that he appreciated their appearance.

"It shows a sign of good will to a frustrated commission and travelling public in this city," he said. "I felt that they were a bit tone deaf a few years ago on some of these issues, so them being here shows me that they're not."

University of Toronto associate professor of geography Matti Siemiatycki, who focuses on transportation infrastructure construction and delivery, told CBC Toronto that the TTC's recent actions show its frustration with Bombardier and that the company now needs to deliver. 

With companies from China, Korea and other countries around the world looking to become a force in the market, its pool of competitors is now growing.

"Bombardier has a lot at stake. If they are shown to be faltering, there are going to be other companies from right around the world that are going to be looking to take their place in the market," Siemiatycki said. 
U of T professor Matti Siemiatycki says Bombardier now needs to deliver after a series of problems with streetcars it manufactured for the TTC. (Chris Langenzarde/CBC)

"The world watches these contracts; they watch when things go wrong internationally." 

Brossoit told the board he is fully committed to the overall delivery of the rest of the cars to the TTC by the end of 2019. The full cost of repairing the 67 streetcars will be assumed by Bombardier and fixed by 2022.

However, Colle said he's judging Bombardier on what they deliver, not on a schedule on a piece of paper.

"The good news is that in the last two quarters, they met their targets, so we hope that continues," he added. "If they continue to do that, I'll be the first one to commend them for it." 

With files from Lauren Pelley