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Toronto - July 2008

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Toronto — Streetcar Bids Rejected

Rail Transit Online, July 2008

The Toronto Transit Commission dropped a bombshell on July 18 when it rejected both bids received just 19 days earlier under a Request for Proposals for 204 new 100-percent low-floor streetcars, adding that it will seek a new design from a variety of manufacturers.

Bombardier Transportation, which was believed to have all but won the C$1.25-billion contract, was told that its offer was technically non-compliant. UK-based TRAM Power Ltd., which has built only a single prototype tram that was subsequently gutted by fire, was informed its proposal was commercially non-compliant.

The decision concerning TRAM Power had been expected, but officials at Bombardier said they were perplexed by TTC's decision. The manufacturer would have supplied its proven Flexity LRV purchased by several European cities.

However, TTC Chairman Adam Giambrone said the company knew the car did not meet some of the agency's technical requirements and that the deficiencies were quite serious. "Effectively, the car that they bid would have derailed on Toronto streets, and they should have known this," Giambrone told The Globe and Mail.

TTC pointed to Bombardier's own documents which said that the Flexity could not push a disabled streetcar up a steep grade near Union Station, one of the RFP requirements. In addition, computer simulations demonstrated that the Flexity would not have been able to negotiate the system's extremely tight 36-ft.-radius (11 meter) curves.

According to TTC spokesman Brad Ross, agency engineers believe Bombardier used "different parameters" than those specified for the streetcar's performance, basing them on European standards for such characteristics as wheel size and track condition. In a prepared statement, TTC also defended its handling of the RFP. "A Fairness Monitor was retained to oversee the procurement process and concurs that the TTC has followed the process ... and also concurs with the cancellation of the RFP," said the statement.

Bombardier aggressively denied Giambrone's charges, with spokesman David Slack declaring that the company does not understand the rejection. "We still believe the bid submitted was competitive and responsive to the intent of the specification," he told The Globe and Mail. "Our management ... is going to ask the TTC for an immediate meeting to discuss the issue in more depth so we can get a better understanding of where they are coming from. We take some exception to the comments that were in the media ... that Bombardier Transportation knowingly submitted a non-compliant bid."

Giambrone said the TTC will start direct talks immediately with several manufacturers, including Bombardier, to find a car that meets Toronto needs. He predicted that streetcar replacement program would only be delayed by four to six weeks.

TTC engineers reportedly believe that existing LRVs from several suppliers, including Bombardier, can be adapted to operate on the Toronto system but only with major modifications. The TTC statement also said the agency will attempt "...to identify and discuss the issues that led ... companies to a decision either not to bid, or to submit a bid that is not compliant."


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