Region without working LRT vehicles as original Ion start date nears
Ryan Flanagan, CTV Kitchener
Published Wednesday, September 13, 2017 4:30PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 13, 2017 6:21PM EDT
Under the original plan for bringing light rail transit to Waterloo Region, the Ion vehicles would either be carrying passengers now or be just about ready to start doing so.
Instead, the region is still waiting for one vehicle to show up in good enough condition that it can be taken out on the track.
For years, Ion service was scheduled to start in the fall of 2017.
In 2015, it was expected that all 14 vehicles would be in Waterloo Region by the end of 2016 – allowing for a lengthy test period before service started.
Eventually, it became clear that vehicle manufacturer Bombardier would not be able to meet that deadline. By the spring of 2016, Bombardier was saying it would have the first vehicle in Waterloo Region by that December, with the full complement in place by October 2017.
It wasn’t until February 2017 that the first vehicle showed up. On that day, officials said that the second vehicle would arrive in June, with a new vehicle following every two weeks or so after that.
“We are 100 per cent committed to delivering all 14 trains by the end of this year,” Bombardier representative Mark MacGregor said at the time.
Seven months later, Waterloo Region still only has the one vehicle. It’s tucked away in a maintenance facility in north Waterloo, because it’s not yet ready to be tested on the LRT line itself.
The delays have reached the point where regional officials are no longer providing estimates for even one more vehicle will show up.
“We’re hoping that will be fairly soon, but we don’t have a specific date in mind yet,” Thomas Schmidt, the region’s commissioner of transportation and environmental services, said Wednesday.
Most likely, Schmidt says, on-track testing of the second vehicle will begin “later this fall.”
“There’s a lot of work to be done, but that’s still our target,” he says.
The delays with the vehicles have pushed the start of Ion service from fall 2017 to spring 2018.
Schmidt says that target date remains feasible, although actually having the vehicles is only one piece of the puzzle.
“There’s a lot of testing that needs to be done before service can start,” he says.
“There are a lot of electrical pieces and electronic pieces in the background that we actually need the trains to test.”
Bombardier says the manufacturing process at its Kingston facility is “going very well.” A company spokesperson would not comment on potential delivery schedules, saying the matter was being negotiated with the region.
For his part, Schmidt says he thinks Bombardier is “doing the best they can” to get light rail vehicles ready to ship to Waterloo Region.
The first train arrived in an unfinished state. While some work has been done, Bombardier may elect to take it back to Kingston to carry out the rest of the upgrades.
With reporting by Tina Yazdani