Friday, June 25, 2010

Post 800 - SkyTrain Technology

So I was looking at the first quarter results for Bombardier, because that is what I do, and I noticed something interesting. 68% of their rail business is in Europe, 15% is in Asia-Pacific, 14% is in North America, and the 3% is in what they call other. It is really interesting to note how much more into rail based transportation Europe is than North America. We really are in the dark ages by comparison. I’m sure that Bombardier's sales percentages are similar to other companies. I then moved on to the SkyTrain section of their website.

As you know, SkyTrain is a solution in search of a problem. It was developed by the Ontario government as a technology that was suppose to save money on vehicle maintenance due to the space-aged linear induction motor. As it turned out, the capital cost of the tracks made the system so costly that it never caught on (even in Ontario). For awhile Bombardier marketed the technology as advanced light rail due to its ability to be fully automated. Unfortunately fully automated, means fully grade separated. Why would you build advanced light rail when you could build normal light rail that can be automated or manually driven and can be run with traffic or grade separated? Only eight systems in the whole wide world were ever built (and the only one in Ontario is being ripped out ironically enough). Bombardier is now calling the system Advanced Rapid Transit and is selling it as a replacement for full-on Metro (subway) systems. I wonder if they’ll have better luck. Bombardier is successful with their standard rail equipment (trams and heavy-rail coaches) that is used all over the world, so I find it odd that the company hasn’t killed SkyTrain yet.

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