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Toronto - September 2008

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Toronto — Streetcar Procurement Resumes

Rail Transit Online, September 2008

The Toronto Transit Commission on Aug. 27 formally approved reopening the C$1.25-billion procurement process for 204 new low-floor streetcars, this time using a multiphase bid structure. Alstom Transportation Inc., Bombardier Transportation Canada Inc., and Siemens Canada Ltd. were invited to participate.

The technical requirements of the original but now cancelled Request for Proposals remain unchanged; each of the three companies has said it could build a streetcar that meets those requirements. However, Bombardier spokeswoman Genevieve Dion later told The Gazette, "...we won't make a new proposal" and that the company is "...convinced of the safety and efficacy of our streetcars."

The RFP drew only two responses, from Bombardier and from a small British firm that has built only a single prototype. Both were rejected in July by TTC engineers as non-compliant, in Bombardier's case because the European-type Flexity model it offered wouldn't have enough power to push a disabled streetcar uphill and would derail on the system's notoriously tight curves. TTC claimed that Bombardier had used computer modeling not based on parameters conforming to those provided by the agency.

TTC Director of Corporate Communications Brad Ross later said it would cost C$1 billion to make the system ready for Bombardier's vehicle. "Big changes would have to be made to the network, from tracks to tunnels, interchanges, tight turns and buildings, along with property acquisitions," Ross told The Gazette. "Bombardier's estimate ... isn't realistic."

But during a presentation to the commission, Bombardier Vice President Mike Hardt aggressively defended the company's product, charging that the specifications were "ambiguous" and casting doubt on the transit agency's competence to evaluate the bid. 'With absolute due respect to our huge customer, I must say that this is probably the first RFP that many of you have written in your entire careers, let alone one of this value," said Hardt. "Bombardier makes a living responding to RFPs of this nature ... around the world."

Commissioners responded that a former Ontario associate chief justice who was appointed as a fairness monitor scrutinized the TTC's response to the bids, finding that they were evaluated accurately and the requirements were clearly stated. Hardt then questioned the judge's experience in examining RFPs.

However, after the meeting, TTC Chairman Adam Giambrone said there was still a good relationship with Bombardier, which is manufacturing a new fleet of subway cars for Toronto. According to a prepared TTC statement, staff would "...report regularly to the commission on the status of discussions. The TTC believes the multi-phase bid process is the best option to ensure it obtains new streetcars that will meet the city's needs. It also allows for questions or concerns to be discussed without the rigors of a formal RFP process."


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