GO Transit turns to Bombardier
Published: November 7, 2007
Source: JEFF GRAY, Globe and Mail

TORONTO — GO Transit – lambasted for delays in recent years – plans to hire Montreal-based transportation giant Bombardier to crew most of its trains, a move it says will improve customer service and help its locomotives run on time.

“We're trying to seek the best value for the taxpayer and our customers,” said Bill Jenkins, GO Transit's director of customer service, in an interview, adding that the new contact will also make it easier for GO to add more trains.

Under the terms of the five-year contract, Bombardier – which beat out SNC-Lavalin and London-based Veolia Transportation – will charge GO $23.9-million a year. GO officials say that will save them millions of the course of deal, which goes to GO's board on Friday for approval, but they wouldn't say precisely how much.

GO, a provincial crown agency, has blamed its long-standing problems both on winter weather and on the complicated set of 40-year-old arrangements it had in place that saw the country's two big railway firms, Canadian National Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific Railway, actually operate GO's trains.

GO Trains were plagued by labour strife last winter, after GO asked CN to reduce the number of crew members from four to three, which upset some workers and resulted in delays. The system also suffered with intriguingly frequent absenteeism on Fridays in the summer, forcing trains to be cancelled and causing delays.

While the new workers will be unionized, just like CN's, the deal will be better structured to satisfy commuters, Mr. Jenkins said. For example, if a train cannot run because a crew member does not show up for work, Bombardier would have to pay a financial penalty.