THUNDER BAY – The Ontario government has committed to buying 36 more bi-level train cars from Bombardier Transportation, however, 550 workers are still expected to be laid off in November.
The deal, according to a government release, will allow Metrolinx, the province’s regional transportation agency, to add 31 standard and five flexible cars to its existing order, providing 6,000 additional seats to GO Transit customers.
"I work every day to expand transit in the GTHA and across Ontario," said Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney. "Buying more GO Transit Bi-level vehicles is important as we continue to rapidly increase service. Our government is committed to building the transportation network Ontario needs, while supporting good jobs."
The state-of-the-art cars include Bombardier’s Orbita system that will allow Metrolinx staff to see real-time performance data, and pinpoint issues relating to things such as doors, HVAC systems and electrical equipment.
"This is great news for our customers. More bi-level cars allow us to add seat capacity as we continue to rapidly expand GO train service," said Phil Verster, president and CEO of Metrolinx. "In addition, trains with improved on-board diagnostic tools allows us to improve customer experience and generate savings on maintenance, which is great for our business, and which will keep more trains performing at peak service levels for our customers."
Bombardier's chief operating officer for the Americas region welcomed the news.
"The safe, comfortable and reliable bi-Level cars for GO Transit have been built by Ontarians for Ontarians in our Thunder Bay facility for over 40 years, and we are pleased that this announcement adds to our historical relationship," David Van der Wee said in the government release.
"This extension will certainly help us contribute to Thunder Bay's economic development and sustain our Canadian supply base. We would also like to thank the government of Ontario and Metrolinx for this new vote of confidence in the expertise of our employees in Thunder Bay."
Unifor Local 1075 bargaining chair, Rick Poole, said they are happy an agreement has been signed for the 36 cars and the members were looking for some positive news.
"This is a good thing for us because it allows us more time to search for more contracts and more work," he said. "This bridges a gap. We are looking at hopefully getting more contracts for LRVs, but one step at a time."
Van der Wee confirmed that the 550 layoffs scheduled to take place in November will proceed.
"We are going to proceed forward with a workforce reduction," he said. "It will leave us with approximately 350 and 400 people. That’s a good step toward the critical mass we need to be commercially viable."
Van der Wee added that the agreement with Metrolinx shows its trust in the company and the value of production at the local plant, but Bombardier will continue to lobby the provincial government for more contracts to fill Toronto Transit Commission needs, as well as the federal government for strong Canadian content policies.
"TTC has been clear that they need more streetcars," Van der Wee said. "We are in discussions right now with what that means. I think that is one of the opportunities we are looking at and we will see going forward how we progress."
"This plant can deliver 170 vehicles in one year for about 950 people. So 36 vehicles is great, but it is a portion of the work we have today."
Work on the 36 bi-level cars is expected to begin in spring 2020 and be completed by spring 2021.