TTC ticked by Flexity issues

Written by John Thompson, Canadian Contributing Editor
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TTC Bombardier Flexity Freedom LRV at Union Station, Toronto. William C. Vantuono photo.

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has been experiencing significant in-service reliability issues with its fleet of new Bombardier-built Flexity Outlook LRVs.

The contract calls for the streetcars to travel 35,000 kilometers (21,748 miles) before experiencing a major failure that delays service for five minutes or longer. However, during January 2019 the cars had problems, on average, after just 7,577 km (4,708 miles).

The TTC said that the Flexities’ poor January performance was the result of an increase in failures that involved almost all vehicle systems.

These included an issue with the braking systems, which the Commission stated could not be quickly corrected. Brake failures during January more than doubled from the previous month: from 14 to 32. The problem stems in part from loose fasteners on brake calipers, as well as a leakage issue in the hydraulic system.

Flexities are taken out of service immediately upon signs of a braking system failure. Bombardier said that it has drawn up a plan with its brake supplier, and the TTC, that will take effect by this summer. A company spokesperson stressed that there is not an in-service safety issue with the Flexities’ brakes.

TTC and Bombardier engineers are working jointly on engineering and quality modifications to correct the reliability problem. Nevertheless, the Commission could not predict when the 35,000-km target would be met. Earlier this year the TTC had more than 6,000 open work orders, including unfinished maintenance or modification jobs, on the Flexities. This situation has severely strained TTC staff.

The vehicle contract permits the TTC to seek damages from Bombardier if the reliability target is not achieved by the time that the final car, of the 204-unit order, is received. The TTC, though, hopes to avoid this scenario by working closely with Bombardier.

At press time about 140 Flexities had been delivered, with the remainder promised by year’s end. The TTC’s need for all 204 of these cars is urgent, as its remaining fleet of approximately 100 of the 40-year-old Canadian Light Rail Vehicles (CLRVs) is declining rapidly.

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