New BART cars delayed, again. 2 Investigates gets answers from supplier

Image 1 of 2

New BART car courtesy BART

BART's new “Fleet of the Future” was supposed to be the biggest public transit remedy seen in years to address the Bay Area gridlock. Instead, 2 Investigates discovered that the multi-billion dollar project -- described as a “slow motion train wreck” by one lawmaker -- is facing more delays, missed deadlines, and undelivered promises by Canadian supplier Bombardier.

BART signed a $1.5 billion contract with Bombardier in 2012. With added costs and amendments, the entire project is slated at $2.5 billion in taxpayer money.

After months of reporting on  problem after problem with train design and delivery for BART, 2 Investigates uncovered similar patterns with other Bombardier projects across the continent stretching back nearly a decade.

In New York, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) struggled with delivery delays from Bombardier, and in August shut the company out of a multi-billion dollar contract because of past issues. This year, Bombardier shipped unfinished cars to Toronto in an attempt to hit a delivery target. The city had previously sued the manufacturer in an attempt to void its contract.

2 Investigates joined media partners from New York and Toronto to look into the issues with their Bombardier projects. Canadian journalist Cynthia Mulligan told 2 Investigates, “People are very frustrated here in Toronto. There is very little confidence. Toronto is caught in a Catch-22. If they get out of the contract, they have to start from scratch, so they’re in a way being held hostage by Bombardier.”

WATCH: Bombardier delays left Toronto with winter streetcar shortage
Mobile users click here

Critics say the problems in New York and Toronto are just the tip of the iceberg, and BART should have seen the writing on the wall with Bombardier before agreeing to a hefty deal. 2 Investigates discovered multiple transit agencies around the world also reported issues with rail car delivery delays from Bombardier, including those in London, Phoenix, Switzerland, and Queensland, Australia.

“When [BART] signed that contract with Bombardier in 2012, it was a company that had financial issues and inabilities to deliver product on time back then,” said State Senator Steve Glazer, a frequent BART critic. “The fact that we’re experiencing delays is not a surprise to me, not a surprise to people who’ve been watching BART and the management over the years.”

WATCH: 2 Investigates tours new BART's new cars
Mobile users click here

How delayed is the new fleet?

2 Investigates went over hundreds of page of legal documents between BART and Bombardier. According to the original contract, this was the initial delivery schedule:

By 2017 – delivery of 60 news cars

By 2018 – delivery of 230 new cars

By 2019 – delivery of 420 new cars

By 2023 – all 775 new cars

Here’s what’s actually happened:

March 2016 – Bombardier first test car arrived three months late

April 2016 – BART crashed its test car and pointed to electrical issues

August 2016 – First 10-car order delayed

July 2017 – First 60 car order delayed (BART announces it hopes to receive only 35 of the 60 new cars promised)

October 2017 -- BART announces instead of 35, they now hope to get at least 20 new cars by Thanksgiving

How badly does the Bay Area need new BART cars?

According to BART, the current fleet of trains is the oldest in the nation. The old cars are coming to the end of their useful lives and, if not replaced, will disrupt service affecting tens of thousands of commuters. The end of useful life for the last existing car is 2019, before the Bay Area will receive its full order from Bombardier.

“Most people don’t realize, BART reached capacity of the system in 1993. So, 24 years ago BART had as many riders as the system would allow,” said Sen. Glazer.

BART Promotional Video for "Fleet of the Future": 
Mobile users click here



Who’s paying for these delays?

After months of requesting an interview, BART agreed to a sit-down with John Garnham, the project director for the “Fleet of the Future.” Garnham said when it comes to extra costs accrued by ongoing problems, Bombardier foots the bill, not taxpayers.

He said, “The car costs have not increased. We have a fixed price for each vehicle. Any of the problems are on Bombardier to fix. It’s on their dime.”

But Sen. Glazer said the public is still paying in another way.

“What does this mean? It means we’re not replacing the old cars and there are more breakdowns and people aren’t getting to work. There’s real impact to this, significant delays we’re already seeing,” he said.

When asked if the delays are taking a toll on BART’s old cars by forcing them to stay on the tracks longer, Garnham said, “That’s difficult for me to answer.”


Why did BART pick Bombardier?

During the bidding process, it came down to three possible suppliers. BART had a scoring system to assesses features like price, engineering plan, delivery schedule and energy consumption.

“Bombardier scored the most, plus they had the lowest cost and had the best overall production proposal. That’s why we chose them,” Garnham said. “I don’t think they had any bigger problems than any of the other car builders.”

2 Investigates tracked down BART’s “Executive Decision Document” detailing the award of the contract. It said, “The Proposer with the highest combined is Bombardier…Staff has also determined that the proposal submitted by Bombardier is the most advantageous to the District with price and other factors considered.”


What is Bombardier saying?

2 Investigates obtained an exclusive interview with Bombardier, through our partnership with City News in Toronto. Spokesman Marc-Andre Lefebvre said there are elements in the BART/Bombardier agreement that prevents him from talking about specific issues publicly.

“What I can say is the test cars just completed their qualification testing, and next week we will have certification by [BART] to put the cars in service and start producing cars this month,” said Lefebvre.

“It’s not something that makes Bombardier an outlier. It is something that is common in the industry, especially in [the Bay Area]. This is the first time in 40 years [BART] has bought new rolling stock for its subway system,” he said.

Lefebvre said Bombardier is working on more than 200 projects around the world. When asked if resources are being stretched too thin causing the delays, he replied, “On the contrary. What we’re look at is having leverage with our manufacturing footprint in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.”

Lefebvre said Bombardier is not shying away from the delivery problem issues even though he said he wasn’t able to talk in specifics.

WATCH: Full interview with Bombardier's spokesman Marc-Andre Lefebvre
Mobile users click here

Who’s held accountable for the slowdown?

Garnham told 2 Investigates Bombardier is responsible for fixing all project problems. BART spokesperson Jim Allison added that the agency’s General Manager is making weekly calls to Bombardier executives to ensure delivery and production are moving along.

However, Sen. Glazer said BART management should be held responsible for the slowdown because they chose Bombardier to make the cars.

“At the end of the day, it’s BART and BART management. BART Board of Directors. They’re the ones who are supposed to be accountable to us as taxpayers, as riders of the system. They need to engage in contracts that perform, that do what they say they’re going to do, on budget and on time. That’s not been the track record for BART,” Senator Glazer said.


When are commuters getting new BART cars?

Garnham said BART is hoping to receive all 775 new trains by the first quarter of 2022, a year after the original deadline. He said Bombardier is trying to create a plan to push up the 2022 target date to mid-2020, earlier than the original deadline.

When asked how confident he is Bombardier to meet this new deadline, Garnham responded, “Well, I can say is it will be based on their past performance.”

Will BART work with Bombardier again?

Bombardier is not excluded from bidding on future BART projects. BART’s goal is to order a total 1,081 new train cars. When asked if he would pick Bombardier to make the remaining 306 cars, Garnham said, “I would have to look at all the factors involved, but I wouldn’t shy away from them. There’s no project that goes without issues.”

WATCH: Full interview with BART's "Fleet of the Future" project manager
Mobile users click here