Region’s first ION car sent back to Bombardier for completion

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Photo by Nirupam Singh

Earlier this month, the first ION light rail car to arrive in the Waterloo Region, vehicle 501, was shipped back to Bombardier, its manufacturer in Kingston, for completion.

Tom Galloway, counsellor in Waterloo, noted that when the vehicle was sent to Waterloo Region last year, it was known that it was in an incomplete state.

“We needed that vehicle in the form that it was, we knew it wasn’t operational,” Galloway said.

“We needed it to test the maintenance facility, to make sure that the maintenance facility had been properly built and all of the clearances and tolerances were being met for the vehicle,” Galloway said.

Given that all of the light rail cars are still owned by Bombardier, however, it was up in the air whether vehicle 501 would be completed here in Waterloo Region or over in Kingston.

“All the vehicles are still owned by Bombardier and it’s up to them to decide how they’re going to bring them up to speed, whether or not they were going to bring staff here and do the upgrades here or take it back to Kingston,” Galloway said.

Galloway noted that they were happy with Bombardier’s decision to take the vehicle back to Kingston.

“We’re quite pleased in fact that they’ve taken it back to Kingston because they can do it much quicker and better in Kingston than trying to do it here,” Galloway said.

“To make sure that the gates and the lights, and all the switching works properly that’s been installed over the last couple of years. And that’s what’s being testing now is the actual track system.”

Besides using vehicle 501 to test the maintenance facility and various clearances and tolerances, the vehicle was also used to train emergency services ahead of the project’s projected completion later this year.

“EMS, fire and police used it on a few occasions too — if there was an accident or some kind of emergency on a vehicle — they did some training on the vehicle,” Galloway.

As for the project’s current status, Galloway noted that were still testing different structures to ensure that they have been properly built, but that they will soon move on to testing the system under power.

“Right now they’re doing the tow-along testing to make sure that all the signs and lampposts and platforms are properly built,” Galloway said.

“And then the power testing will start, possibly later this month, primarily on the test track, which goes from Northfield Drive down to Erb and Caroline. And eventually, they’ll be taking live testing all the way down to Fairview Park Mall as well,” Galloway said.

Galloway also acknowledged the importance of having at least three vehicles in the Region for testing.

“We have three operational vehicles now, and that’s how many vehicles are required to do proper testing, because you need more than one to mimic all the various circumstances that are going to take place, with vehicles going in opposite directions and so on,” Galloway said.

He also noted that the current priority in the project is not on the vehicles, but on the track system itself.

“So we have those three vehicles. You can now test the system. It’s not so much right now about the vehicles as it is the system that’s been built,” Galloway said.

“To make sure that the gates and the lights, and all the switching works properly that’s been installed over the last couple of years. And that’s what’s being testing now is the actual track system.”

Beyond the details of testing, Galloway affirmed that they were still on track for a Spring 2018 start.

“If all goes well, we can make that date, but there really is no wiggle room, and anything that might go wrong with the vehicles or with the track system itself has the potential of pushing back the start date again.”

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