Days on the tracks, new BART cars have maintenance issue

BART took two of its 10 new cars out of service Monday, just three days after debuting the new train, KTVU has confirmed. The new 10-car train will now operate as a 8-car train until further notice, according to a spokesperson. This comes after years of problems with the "Fleet of the Future" project and Canadian manufacturer Bombardier.

Still, BART management says they will still consider the beleaguered and controversial Bombardier for future projects.

“We will consider all the manufacturers who are qualified. We have to, "BART General Manager Grace Crunican told 2 Investigates on Friday. "Not ruling [Bombardier] out. Not at all. We actually like the cars very much."

BART is a year and a half behind schedule rolling out its new fleet, which consists of 775 cars by Bombardier. The pilot cars, made and delivered by Bombardier, have undergone thousands of modifications. On Friday, BART held its ribbon-cutting ceremony for the first 10 cars ready for passengers. During that time, BART was supposed to have 230 cars, according to the original contract with Bombardier.

“There’s nothing in this contract that we’ve seen that we didn’t expect to happen at one time or another,” said Crunican. “We thought the cars would start rolling in September 2016, and they’re here today [Friday]. We are a year and a half behind and delays comes. I think that’s pretty standard.”

According to the California Public Contract Code, public agencies must provide all qualified bidders with a fair opportunity to enter bidding processes for public processes. One of the reasons for the code is to eliminate favoritism, fraud and corruption in the awarding of taxpayer-funding contracts. 
However, in New York, Bombardier was shut out of a $3.2-billion dollar public project making new subway cars because of past delivery delays. The problems are similar to the issues seen with BART’s "Fleet" of the Future project. 

For months, KTVU 2 Investigates has been holding BART accountable for chronic delays with the "Fleet of the Future" project. The $2.6-billion project with Bombardier has experienced major hurdles, including BART crashing a pilot car in 2016 and failing a CPUC safety certification test in November 2017.

In past reports on Bombardier, 2 Investigates uncovered years of similar problems and delays with different projects across the country and globe.  KTVU worked with investigative journalists in Toronto and New York. Both found delivery delays with Bombardier projects in their own cities.

During Friday’s event celebrating the roll out of the new cars, 2 Investigates spoke with John Garnham, BART’s group manager for its Rail Vehicle Cap Program.

“Typically on a project like this, these cars are unique. So New York or Chicago or Washington D.C. or the Bay Area, these heavy rail cars are different. They have to be designed from scratch, so it’s typical for a project of this magnitude to get behind in the engineering stage because that’s the hardest,” explained Garnham.

Garnham has been adamant in saying BART will not fully roll out all the trains until its 100% certain the cars are ready and safe.

“[BART] knew of all these technical issues when the cars were ordered,” said State Sen. Steve Glazer of Orinda, a strong critic of BART. “They’re not new issues, so it’s a rationalization of the delays, and that’s why our confidence in BART is at such a low point.”

Moving forward, BART says it has 10 additional cars in the Bay Area that need to be tested before passengers can ride them. They plan to have all 775 cars in service by 2022. Garnham believes they will beat that schedule.

BART ultimately wants to increase its new fleet to 1,081 cars. Manufacturers, including Bombardier, will have to apply to be considered for the additional 306-car project.