Bombardier presentation to the Transport Action Group
Transport Action Group at the Firehall Library March 9
I was invited to attend a presentation by Steve Hall of Bombardier. The group is the former Transport 2000 which has now adopted a new identity nationally. Before transcribing my notes I looked at what I wrote on January 15 after my sneak preview, since much of the material he presented I had already seen from that event. I hope I have avoided any duplication.
His topic was entitled “Light rail” but what he addressed were the current sate of the rail business and the trends trends that are now shaping it. Bombardier has a turnover of around $20bn pa with 96% of revenues come from outside Canada. The business splits roughly 50/50 between aerospace and rail – in fact they are now the largest rail equipment supplier in the world. The two businesses are counter cyclical: business jets are mot much in demand due to the recession but rail spending is increasing due to the “climate change push” and US federal stimulus funding. The rail business employs 34,000 people across 50 engineering sites, which collectively have a 2 -3 year’s backlog of orders to deliver worth $24.7bn. They have delivered over 100,000 railcars to 60+ countries. The customers are governments, with 73% of the revenue from Europe and only 10% in North America. The fastest growing part of the business is the service sector – that is running and maintaining trains and signalling systems.
The most significant trends influencing the business are urbanization, population growth, road traffic congestion, oil scarcity and rising energy costs. 23% of the world’s manmade greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation – only 1% of which comes from rail. In Metro Vancouver it is estimated that costs of congestion exceed $1.2bn a year. The US is seeing the highest demand for transit in 50 years. In Europe demand doubled in recent years, and there is huge growth in the Asia/Pacific region.
The specific trends influencing Bombardier’s approach to the rail business are
#1 push towards full automation – eg Madrid – driven by reaching the maximum capacity of the existing infrastructure: automation allows for the closer spacing of trains and also produces operational cost savings.
#2 push for High Speed Rail – US investment in ten corridors – China is planning 6000km of HSR – $155bn – for speeds of up to 350km/h. Bombardier has 3,000 employees in China and now has a huge order for its Zefiro 380 which will begin deliveries in 2012.
#3 unprecedented expenditures in Research & Development. In Bombardier this includes MITRAC energy storage – essentially a bank of super capacitors that are more efficient than batteries and the development of Primove – a no catenary, no contact induced power delivery system which is currently on a test track in Bautzen, Germany.
#4 rebirth of interest in streetcars and light rail. There have been 30 new projects in Europe in last ten years. These have been driven by the question “How do you get people out of their cars?” Most projects in North America take 10 to 15 years in planning, but one major order has been for 204 replacement cars for the Toronto Transit Commission. These cars have to cope with 11.2m curves (the sharpest in North America) they are single ended with doors on one side only and use the non-standard TTC gauge. There are options for 400 more for new lines, and it is expected that expansions to the light rail network in the Toronto region will be at standard gauge.
Bombardier’s Flexity tram as used on the Olympic Line is aimed at delivering a capacity of 2,000 persons per hour per direction (pphpd) to 6000 pphpd at average service speeds of between 12 to 34km/h. He emphasized that there is no single answer – no technology meets all needs. The Brussels design has older trucks with motors on the outside of the frame. This produces the narrow car cross-section over the truck but newer designs now offer a wider flat floor area.
The choice of technology and vehicle is not driven by technical issues but rather the clients’ view of the kind of city they want to see int he future. Their vision determines design and materials. For instance, research shows that there is a perception of a health risk of using transit (concerns about contagious diseases like H1N1 or SARS) so they now use materials in the interiors that kill all germs for a year.
In many European cities there is growing interest in the “tram train” which operates at higher speeds on main line railway track for longer distances in the outer suburbs, then goes to onstreet running in city centres. This could be the solution needed for Rail for the Valley [and indeed exactly describes how the interurban was running 100 years ago!].
What Bombardier now offers is the “empty room concept”. The technical components are standardized to keep costs down but the operator can specify exactly what they want for the interior. This is based on their design concepts and reflects local values. It is worth noting that Brussels had been plagued for year with graffiti and vandalism on its trams but the introduction of the Flexity with its leather seats and high quality interior fittings has produced a dramatic decline.
Talent diesel multiple units are not now being sold in any number (most recent Talent deliveries have been electric). There is not enough demand to develop a car that could meet (US) FRA standards.
Bombardier have delivered over 1,000 bi-level commuter rail cars – a design that is now 30 years old.
SkyTrain: they have sold over 700 cars “that’s a successful product for us”. He acknowledged that it is a “niche market”. “It wins on operating cost. On the original SkyTrain cars the linear motors are now 25 years old have never been touched.”
The streetcar gets positive public reception wherever it is proposed. This is in strong contrast to almost every other type of rail project
He also acknowledged that P3s are complicated but they are interested when there is a need to get smaller amounts raised. He pointed to the original McQuarie studies. He also emphasized that the point is risk transfer not cost savings – Bombardier cannot borrow money as cheaply as a government.
Asked about rubber tyre solutions he pointed out that they started in the rail business with the Montreal subway. “We bet the company, since snowmobiles went in the tank”.He pointed out that Taipei works at 30 deg every day but dealing with ice and snow is different.
“Nobody has taken the bicycle into account successfully. We need to look at that in a different way. Biking and walking are the fastest growing portion of trips. What would a BC car look like? People respond to what they are offered.”