“Those sites are well empowered to make the decisions that they need to be agile, and the more elements that you get to control — the parts flow, the operators, the maintainers, the train movement — the better that we believe that you can capitalize on the assets that the customers have.
“Our workforce at the site level [are] able to benefit from all of our global knowledge, experience and innovations that we can bring to support them and yet allow them to run as a standalone, agile, flexible business in concert with our customers.
“Keep in mind, we’re guests, we’re tenants in their properties,” Hardt says.
“We are frequently entrusted with their brand and certainly with their capital assets, so it’s important that the business gets to interface with the customer quickly there and the more holistic that we can respond the better.”
I asked Hardt if all this synergy would allow Bombardier to run a transit system and he replied without a beat, “Yeah, from stem to stern, absolutely. Yes.”
Hardt says it’s all a part of the company’s continued evolution. “As Jack Welch once said, I think an organization’s ability to learn and to translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage. With the baby boomer issue now that’s facing transit agencies, we’re so well poised to add value here.”
With the recent investments in rail in the United States by the current administration, is the “climate right for trains” as Bombardier’s recent tag line claimed? Hardt thinks so.
“I think by and large the rail industry needs to continue to evolve in order to be able to compete against roads and air, because we just can’t keep building roads as you know,” Hardt says.
“So the vehicles and the systems today I think are more competitive in many ways. They are competitive from an environmental standalone position. I think Bombardier and other companies obviously are building vehicles where not just by having transportation are you helping the environment, but the actual design in the transit vehicle supports the environment.
“So, there’s that evolution that’s taking place. There’s the evolution in cross network adaptability, in other words whether a streetcar runs with an overhead pantograph or doesn’t. Whether it runs, such as in New Jersey, locomotive in dual mode, electric and diesel. Whether there’s evolution in creature comfort. In suspension. In passsenger comfort. There’s all kinds of interior enhancements. There’s a great deal of safety evolution that takes place. Right down to one of our last Metro orders in TTC where they now have Metro trains, subway trains, which are straight walkthrough, all six cars, not just for capacity, but for safety.”
Hardt was dismissive about what agencies could learn from Bombardier saying with a laugh the real best practice is what they could benefit from learning from each other.
“Today I really do think that transit agencies are facing a huge issue on training people and replacing people and bringing people up to speed on complicated equipment,” Hardt says.
“Today’s equipment has far more technology in it. It’s like today’s car. Your service technician on your automobile today is far different than the service technician who worked on the carburetor and push rods of two decades ago.”
In the end, Hardt says best practices boil down to not what’s best for the supplier or the agency, but what is best for the riders.
“I don’t think it is so much what a transit agency can learn from us; I think it is what we can do together to be able to hold costs, bring costs down, move quickly and give a better product to the riding public,” Hardt says.
“I see so much innovation that we’re bringing to the equation to help do that and that’s how we got this far. We were there, we were listening and hopefully responding and together we worked out many of these solutions.
“We are learning together and together finding solutions for what tomorrow’s needs are."