Light Rail

Retool Siemens Plant to Build LRT

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 17, 2010

On reading this article in the Spectator about the announced closure of the Siemens plant in Hamilton, I realized that this could be an excellent opportunity to retool the Siemens plant to manufacture light rail transit systems in Hamilton for the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton.

Consider that:

Even more interesting is the potential for the Ontario government to combine electric-powered LRT systems with clean, sustainable electricity generation, for example using wind turbines as Calgary currently does.

By the way, Calgary's LRT system was built by Siemens.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By AnneMariePavlov (registered) | Posted March 17, 2010 at 12:07:26


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By DANEYBOY (anonymous) | Posted March 17, 2010 at 12:15:53

You'd be breaking a signed contract.

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By frank (registered) | Posted March 17, 2010 at 12:28:49

Daneyboy, explain....

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By Rick (anonymous) | Posted March 17, 2010 at 13:13:26


You should contact the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. They have a committee that has been working since October on starting/getting a LRT manufacturing facility in Hamilton. They have contacted hundreds of companies to see who would be interested in participating; people who have land and buildings available and I believe that they have contacted all of the LRT manufactures.

They see this as a very attainable project.


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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted March 17, 2010 at 13:49:37

A very nice suggestion indeed Ryan! However, I believe the contracts being referred to above may be with Bombardier.

Nonetheless, offering ideas, strategic expertise, assistance and incentives to RETOOL the existing infrastructure of industries that have lost markets; or are compelled to move out of Hamilton on account of a better business environment - is a very critical and proactive stance, which can prevent our local economy from hitting bumps frequently.

Our EcDev office needs to pursue this approach promptly - before the Siemens plant is stripped of life and the property turns into yet another brownfield site for sale.

In order to foresee and plan for all worse case scenarios and eventualities, our city needs to develop strategic business intelligence of the morphing markets and business conditions of our existing local industrial manufacturers.

We have emergency preparedness plans for most natural and man-made disasters and calamities - yet we fail to prepare and actively manage an emergency plan for our more basic economic disasters.

A Plan B needs to be developed and kept ready for all our industrial companies and many core assets - which are crucial to the economic wellbeing and identity of our city and region.

In the case of Siemens, if we had our radars on, we could have compelled Siemens ahead of its move, to segue into a direction that we as a community desire to see our city go in.

Siemens has a highly diverse set of businesses, any one of which if co-located per plan B - in Hamilton, would have ushered in economic prosperity in the Barton street neighborhood.

An effective Plan B, would have seen a smooth transition from their present turbine manufacturing business to something like -- The Siemens Building Technologies - ReNew Hamilton Works.

Given our need to launch green industries, Siemens could become a strategic partner in not only retooling its industrial base locally, but also playing a very critical role in retooling Hamilton's economy itself for the coming generation.

Siemens Building Technologies, Ltd. which is presently headquartered in Brampton, Ontario, is one of the family of Siemens Canada operating companies. SBT is a leading single-source provider of cost-effective facility performance solutions for the comfort, life safety, and security of some of the most technically advanced buildings in the world. In Canada, SBT employs 700 people and provides local service from coast to coast.

It may still not be too late for Hamilton's Economic Development department to quickly approach Siemens / SBT, with a strong proposition to collaborate with the City in developing the basis for Green industries in Hamilton.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 17, 2010 at 14:25:04

We have a signed contract with Bombardier?? That would be GREAT news if it's true. It would put me at much more ease anytime I read an interview by a tanning salon or pawn shop owner complaining about LRT.

Ryan - great idea. Herman Turkstra had a great piece in today's Spec outlining a similar idea for job creation in Hamilton, although he sort of lost me by trying to use that idea as a means of slamming the PanAm stadium. Regardless, it's time for Hamilton to invest in these forward looking jobs instead of chasing around suburban retail outlets all the time.

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By Quick Point (anonymous) | Posted March 17, 2010 at 21:48:06

If LRT is selected as the definitive rapid transit system, the manufacturing of the LRT vehicles would have to go through the tendering process. Some of the above comments are assuming Siemens might win the bid process...

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 18, 2010 at 08:36:51

If we were to actually get a Siemens LRT plant in Hamilton (fat chance) I'd be completely supportive of a 'tendering' process that results in them winning the bid. It would be lunacy to have an LRT plant here, yet use a different plant to build the system.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 18, 2010 at 10:50:11

The Calgary LRT is a Siemens LRT not Bombardier.

Siemens and Bombardier have worked in consortium in the past - Siemens providing drive systems, Bombardier the chassis. But Siemens also makes their own LRTs.

The author's suggestion would by-pass the proper bid process for an LRT system. You can't just grant Siemens the contract. You can however make the contract based on making at least a portion of the system in Hamilton, European countries do it all the time. Usually the winning bidder is required to assemble the systems locally (with a percentage specified), this allows the manufacturer to build the components at their existing manufacturing facilities then ship them to a local facility to put together.

The long term life of the assembly facilities would not be guaranteed however and unless Canada plans on a transit revival and specifically a rail revival I doubt a new LRT or any rail equipment manufacturing facility in this province is viable... Bombardier already has two (and Kingston may already be mothballed???).

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted March 18, 2010 at 11:49:12

I think it would be a better idea to go after Bombardier to take over the National Steel Car plant to build LRT and other rail vehicles. That to me seems more likely than retooling a gas turbine plant to build streetcars. This might sound like a dream scenario, but before I get accused of lowering the level of discourse here, let me give a few reasons.

They already have the contract to build 204 light rail vehicles for Toronto, to run on their existing network and the new Transit City lines. These vehicles are supposed to be at least 50% built in Canada, according to the contract.

Bombardier does not currently build light rail in North America. Establishing a plant in Hamilton would position them to meet domestic content requirements for the TTC order as well as other Canadian projects.

They also have a history of supplying GO Transit and other rail companies with bilevel coaches. If they got an LRT plant underway, they could combine these technologies to produce multiple unit electric coaches for faster service on commuter lines such as GO.

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By frank (registered) | Posted March 18, 2010 at 14:24:58

I think a good way to get around the whole contract issue is to do what Keily is saying, make it a stipulation that the system or a major percentage of it (i.e. the carriages) are manufactured in Hamilton, the city might even be able to negotiate with Seimens that some sort of deal is made for the plant to be bought by the winning bidder. That'd be incentive for Seimens to put in a good bid. Even then, whether or not the Seimens plant stays a "Seimens" plant doesn't matter. Whoever wins could purchase the plant and hire the staff...or build another plant and the laid off Seimens workers could apply there.

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By M.P.B. (anonymous) | Posted March 18, 2010 at 15:37:07

jason >>> "...I'd be completely supportive of a 'tendering' process that results in them winning the bid."

Isn't that how we have got where we are in Hamilton :-))

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 18, 2010 at 15:59:13

"Bombardier does not currently build light rail in North America. Establishing a plant in Hamilton would position them to meet domestic content requirements for the TTC order as well as other Canadian projects." - Jonathon

They have a barely used facility in Kingston that would be capable of producing light rail, they built the Vegas Monorail there, they also have a facility in La Pocatiere, QC that builds subways and the Thunder Bay facility builds the bi-levels and street cars. Opening another facility in Hamilton would be unlikely... The best you can probably hope for is an initially temporary assembly facility opening (if stipulated in the sales contract) and then you hope the facility is efficient and enough orders within reasonable distance come in to warrant keeping it open.

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By More roads (anonymous) | Posted March 18, 2010 at 16:42:53

Where would people rather live? In an area dominated by

1) Acres of unbroken, privately owned commercial/industrial land.

2) Large amounts of public assets like sidewalks, roads, parks and trails?

Just to be clear, Barton St and most of the entire lower city, including the downtown, is in the shadow of the former.

What if, instead of tying our economic hitch to big industrial sites, we followed the Toronto model, which utilizes a balance of public and private assets to bring people and jobs into an area?

In time, Barton St could become like Queen St with lots of commercial activity, just on a more human scale. The trick is to stop believing that we need to allow private industry to completely dominate a geographic area to do this. The most prosperous areas of Toronto and Hamilton are in fact filled with government assets, things like parks, universities and lots of sidewalks and roads.

In contrast, in areas where there are large plots of private land, WITHOUT accompanying public assets, these areas tend to create the conditions for low property values and limited development. In other words, if the goal is to produce a high amount of economic value per acre of land, you need lots of public assets in the area. If you would rather produce low economic output per acre of land, make sure you don't invest public money in that area, because that is what will happen.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 18, 2010 at 18:27:25

Mahesh, I'm not suggesting breaking the rules, but rather setting up the tendering process to require the system be built in Hamilton. Other comments have further elaborated on how this works in other cities. I'm sorry, but at the end of the day the workers and plants in Hamilton are more important to me than the workers or plants in North Carolina or Germany.

People can call it protectionism or whatever goofy term they like. IMO the best economy is a local economy.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2014 at 11:39:22

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