Skip to main content

The Curse of Bombardier

It was easy to blame the former Harper government as the main reason why Canada is a half of century behind the rest of the world in having high speed passenger rail. 

That excuse is far too simple and it does not explain why other countries are not actively lobbying to sell their high speed trains and technology in Canada.

Recent stories from around the world show that China and Japan are aggressively marketing their trains in North America and Asia. In Canada, these countries are hesitant to spend any money on lobbying for their high speed trains. Why?

The Bombardier factor is the reason they have given up on Canada. It seems the mere presence of Bombardier in Canada means that no country will be able to win the contract to build, operate and maintain a high speed rail line. Contracts have to be given to Bombardier, henceforth the disappearing act - China and Japan rail companies are not lobbying in Canada.

It is hard to believe that these mega countries would back off from investing in Canada especially if they looked at Bombardier Canada and compared the Canadian operations to Bombardier International and the current state of Bombardier in Canada.

With over 64,000 employees worldwide, Bombardier Canada is a small part of the company with only 4,000 employees in Canada. Both their air and rail division are facing significant challenges.

Bombardier’s Canada aerospace division received a $1 billion lifeline from the Quebec government for their faltering C-Series jet project.

Bombardier’s Canada rail division is being sued by the Toronto Transit Commission for over $50 million for their lateness in delivering streetcars to the City of Toronto. Only 16 of the promised 73 in 2015 were delivered. The total order is supposed to be for 204 streetcars. The TTC is also looking at another lawsuit against Bombardier in reference to the streetcar fiasco. Ironically Bombardier blames its plant in Mexico for part of the problem.

A bigger question to be answered is: Why is Bombardier Canada doing absolutely nothing to promote high speed trains in Canada?

We have to go back to 2002 and 2003 when Bombardier was fully committed, and actually built their Jet Train engine, not a cheap mock-up. A real engine was built and they tried to sell it in the USA and Canada. Bombardier was “all in” and tried to get the respective governments to modernize their passenger fleets.

Unfortunately it was poor timing for their push for higher speed rail. In Canada, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin were Prime Ministers. When Paul Martin was finance minister for then Prime Minister Chrétien, his anti-rail sentiments and connections to the bus industry were well known. Under his watch there would no funding possibilities for VIAFast or purchasing of the Jet Train.

In the USA it was just as bad. With Republican President George W. Bush in power, coupled with Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the chances of the Jet Train becoming a reality were slim to none.

Since the demise of the Jet Train, Bombardier has disappeared completely from the high speed rail lobbying effort in Canada. Due to the aforementioned existing problems, it is doubtful Bombardier Canada could even manage or fund a high speed rail lobby campaign in Canada, let alone build them here.

Prime Minister Trudeau has said that Canada is open for business. It will take a significant amount of private dialogue behind the scenes with the Federal government and the Chinese and Japanese governments to encourage them to invest in Canada.

But will our Prime Minister have the courage to promote foreign high speed rail technologies in Canada at the expense of Bombardier?

The reality is Bombardier Canada currently does not the ability to build high speed trains in Canada. It is time to look elsewhere to solve Canada’s passenger rail speed problems.


  1. The reality is that, especially out West, CPR and CN will not cede any track to a high speed train and in any case it's rail is built for "heavy haul" (freight).

    Let's just look at what happened to the Turbo.
    (And I rode it several times between Toronto and Montreal in its days).

    Another factor is that people are not ready to fork out $65+ for a 4-hour ride between Calgary and Edmonton when the RDCs of years past didn't even manage to make themselves pay.

    It might be different between Toronto and Québec but it's not for today, when the car is still king (re: privacy).

  2. Mobility via road transportation is almost at a standstill in the Quebec City/Windsor corridor and we must now look at train travel as the missing third link in order to allow people to move from A to B in a quick, safe, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly manner.

    It is so sad to see that other developed countries realized this long ago and have invested long-term in railways as a viable alternative to the automobile and short- to medium-length airline travel.

    As a result of our short-term thinking, Canada is at least 50 years behind the times when it comes to rail travel.

    And we have no excuse for being in the dark in terms of finding transportation solutions as most Canadians have access to a wealth of information via the internet...

    Also, a lot of us have travelled to Europe and have literally emerged in shock after witnessing their seamless transportation systems that allow a passenger upon disembarking a plane to quickly make the transition to other forms of transport such as intercity rail, ferries, buses, etc.

    Isn't time that we stop playing politics and stop using excuses such as subsidization to prevent any attempts at revitalizing rail transportation in Canada since all forms of transportation are subsidized one way or another, either directly or indirectly!

    We have to admit to it once and for all, that suburbia simply isn't sustainable or workable in the long term and that we must rethink and find solutions for our transportation woes, not to mention the proper and intelligent steps to safeguard our environment and planet!

    Unfortunately, I personally feel that Canada will never get high speed rail because there are higher forces at play here that will prevent this viable and realistic solution from ever being implemented!


Post a Comment