A Tale Of Two LRT Procurements

- July 3rd, 2012

From time to time I check in with the local news in Kitchener-Waterloo to see how its LRT plan is shaping up. It’s interesting to see the parallels and differences between two municipalities — Ottawa and Waterloo Region — and their approaches to building LRT systems.

The Coles Notes version of the Waterloo Region plan: It’s $818 million and cost-shared with the two upper-tier governments. The 19-km surface line would connect the region’s two main malls. It would be up and running by 2017.

So here’s what Waterloo Region is up to with its LRT procurement.

The region is sole-sourcing 14 Bombardier trains because it believes it can get a better deal buying in bulk with Metrolinx, which is purchasing trains for Toronto. The rationale, according to councillors there, is the Canadian content rule attached to the provincial funding. They argue the Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay is the only facility available to make the trains.

Siemens, of course, is miffed.

Compare that with Ottawa’s approach, which is to put every element of the LRT system into the competitive tender, trains and all. Bombardier is part of one of the three construction consortia bidding on the contract.

Sole-source deals are, in general, controversial, but especially so in Ottawa right now (er, Presto, which is run by Metrolinx), so I can’t imagine the Waterloo Region approach would fly here.

I’d be curious in knowing, however, if piggybacking on the Metrolinx train purchase has ever come up in the halls of Ottawa City Hall.

It wouldn’t be too surprising if Metrolinx factored into the discussions since, according to the agency’s goals, it is “to act as the central procurement agency for the procurement of local transit system vehicles, equipment, technologies and facilities and related supplies and services on behalf of Ontario municipalities.”

Categories: Transit

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