Aug 27, 2008

Alstom graft probe

The TTC news release announcing the three short list finalists in its search for a company to build low floor streetcars. They are the French firm Alstom Transport, Germany's Siemens and Montreal based Bombardier.

According to Christina Blizzard of the Toronto Sun

The Request for Proposal (RFP) process came down to two companies -- Tram Power and Bombardier. Yet Tram Power was eliminated and Siemens and Alstom -- who were not part of the RFP at the end -- were brought in.

Another news report has this to say about Alstom Transport...

Alstom is the target of a wide-ranging investigation by French and Swiss authorities over suspected bribes worth tens of millions of euros (dollars) to secure tenders in Asia and South America between 1995 and 2003.

The Swiss prosecutor said the latest raids were not linked to other Alstom-related proceedings such as a bribery case against a Swiss national whom press reports have named as Oskar Holenweger, former head of the Zurich bank Tempus Privatbank.

In June French judges charged a former consultant for Alstom over links to suspected bribes paid for lucrative contracts. The company registered as a civil plaintiff in that case, claiming it may have suffered from embezzlement.

The Wall Street Journal reported in May that Swiss authorities found evidence Alstom paid some 20 million euros (31 million dollars) via "shell companies" to marketing people in Singapore, Indonesia, Venezuela and Brazil.

Alstom is suspected of paying 6.8 million dollars to help win a 45-million-dollar contract for the Sao Paolo subway and suspected bribes linked to a Brazilian energy plant.

Brazilian authorities announced in May they were investigating Alstom for suspected tax avoidance and money laundering.

I am only a bus driver (a retired one at that) and not up to the wheeling and dealing of billion dollar contracts. Yet something about this one is starting to get my attention. It would be very interesting to be a fly on the wall.

AFP: Switzerland announces arrest in widening Alstom graft probe.

Aug 26, 2008

$28 million for Durham infrastructure

The Ontario government is handing out an additional $1.1 billion in municipal infrastructure to improve roads, bridges, expand public transit and build other municipal projects. Already there are warnings that this will not be repeated next year.

Durham Region will receive $28 million. How much of that will go towards public transit? If the Regional Council sticks to it’s past record you can expect very little will be spent on transit. Council has already diverted all of the region's gas tax funding towards a proposed incinerator in Durham Region. They are still sitting on the $240,000 received from Metrolinx for bike racks on buses.

Aug 23, 2008

Bombardier streetcar deal

AlstomTramIt appears that Bombardier will lose out in any streetcar construction deal to Alstrom Transport. See my post of July 20 Streetcar deal - what is the truth? about the original bids. Alstrom Transit is located in France.

There are several parts to this issue. First the TTC determined that Bombardier's original tender would not meet the requirements. The TTC stated that the cars would de-rail on some of the tighter turns on their streetcar lines. That claim was refuted by Bombardier.

In sales, telling a prospective customer that they are completely wrong rarely results in good customer relations, in this case it led to the entire deal being re-opened.

There is a Ontario 25% Canadian Content requirement. The McGuinty government plan only requires 25% Canadian content, not 25% of the assembly being done in Canada. That means the French company could order parts, which could be made in Southern Ontario and shipped to France for assembly.

With no one in government that is willing to protect Canadian industry and workers, this this three billion dollar deal could end up in France.

There was a time when the Ontario Government would tell the TTC that they had to buy their buses in Ontario from General Motors. A contract worth $3 billion should be spent on jobs in Ontario. We are losing to many  jobs. 

Aug 21, 2008

Third track opened for Scarborough GO users

The third track on the Lakeshore East line between Scarborough GO station and the Don River was completed in April, but the track wasn’t up to full speed until this past weekend.

Greg Ashbee, manager of the rail expansion program for GO Transit, said the track needs to settle in after it is laid, first allowing trains to run at just 25 miles per hour before being bumped to 40 mph. On Friday night it was tested at 60 mph.

The Scarborough station is on St. Clair Avenue west of Midland Avenue.

The third track can be used by express GO and VIA trains to help ease congestion on the other two tracks used for trains making frequent stops on the line.

Following the completion of the third track, it still wasn’t able to make a difference in service because of the speed constraints.

“Now we can see it will start ... to figure into daily operations,” Ashbee said. “It will make our on-time performance much better and allow us to improve our rush-hour service.”
GO Transit, will host an event to mark improvements to the Lakeshore East rail corridor on August 22, 2008 at 10:30 a.m. It will be held at GO's Scarborough Station on St. Clair Avenue East west of Midland Avenue.

Third track opened for Scarborough GO users.

Aug 17, 2008

Kingston Transit bus ad

I am still laughing at this photo of a ad on the rear of a Kingston Transit bus.

This is from a transit service that has been doing so well. Ridership has been going up and in August 2008 Kingston Transit introduce "My Cards", reloadable "smart" cards. Customers only have to tap "My Card" on the fare box when they board Kingston Transit and the system will automatically tally their ride.

Certainly, this bus ad must have been a boo boo.

Aug 15, 2008

Hoile loop

The last few days the the Hoile loop on 222 Audley South DRT bus route issue has been read in the Toronto Star, The News Advertiser and again with a editorial. Since April 3, 2008 David Harrison as been posting on his blog Durham Transit Review about the issue.

"It just comes roaring down the road. We can't open our windows because of the smell and noise," says Sandra Cassidy the Ajax homeowner. This quote in the Toronto Star is right beside a photo that shows a DRT bus going past her. If you are posing for a publicity photo, the noise from the bus and pollution from its exhaust becomes a none issue?

She is also quoted as saying her husband Wayne, a "well-respected" architectural technologist who designed the subdivision, has some clout with local politicians who know him through business and charity events, Cassidy says.

"Not to sound like I'm bragging or anything but we have more (influence) than the average person."

Judging by the quotes, it appears as she might have ticked off Carola Vyhnak, the Toronto Star reporter more than Reka Szekely the News Advertiser reporter. The News Avertiser went much easier on her. I wonder why? Could it be that in Toronto is a transit city?

These articles have resulted with comments on disscussion boards going wild. Some of the comments are not very nice. DRT customer service has also recieved an increase in emails in favour of keeping the Hoile loop.

According to the minutes of the Durham Region Transit Executive Committee the issue will be dealt with at the next regular Durham Region Transit Executive Committee meeting being held on Wednesday, September 3, 2008 commencing at 1:30 p.m. in the Lower Level Boardroom, Regional Headquarters Building, Whitby.

After they finish dealing with this issue the Executive Committee should start planning mid day service on the Audley South route.