Bombardier Innovia Metro

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The Bombardier Innovia Metro (formerly known as the UTDC Intermediate Capacity Transit System or ICTS) was developed as a transit system that was lighter and smaller, and therefore cheaper to build and run than a full-fledged heavy-rail subway, but capable of higher capacities and shorter headways than a streetcar line.


The beginnings

In 1969, the Ontario Government began planning for new type of transit system that would utilize small, automated vehicles that could be used on elevated corridors. Called the Intermediate Capacity Transit System (ICTS), it would be cheaper to build and operate than the full-fledged subways that were being built in Toronto. The process continued until May 1972, when under the direction of the newly-formed Ministry of Transportation and Communications, submissions were received from nine different manufacturers.

On May 1, 1973, the Government announced after a thorough examination of the 3 finalist bids that Krauss-Maffei had won the contract to build and operate a demonstration system on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition by 1975. The system was to use small cars powered/operating by magnetic levitation (maglev), and was to be in revenue service in a city by 1977.

On June 22 of that year, the Ontario Transportation Development Corp. (OTDC, later UTDC) was established by the Ontario Government to help develop and market the Krauss-Maffei system, then called GO-Urban.

Work continued the development of the system through the rest of 1973 and 1974 until November, when Krauss-Maffei pulled out due to financing and technical difficulties (interestingly, Krauss-Maffei was involved in the development of the Transrapid maglev). On March 26, 1975, UTDC announced that the project had been abandoned.

Had GO-Urban proceed as envisioned, the system would have provided a link between the less densely populated suburbs and the more densely populated core. The GO-Urban network would have taken advantage of hydro corridors as well as existing railway corridors.

The idea behind the project did not die however, and in June of 1975 UTDC announced that a Canadian consortium had been formed to develop a new version of the ICTS. This one would feature larger cars operating on steel rails, but still using magnetic propulsion (linear motors).

A year later, on June 21, 1976, the Province approved a 3-year development and prototyping plan that called for the construction of a development and manufacturing site just outside of Kingston, Ont. Built in the town of Millhaven, the site opened on September 29, 1978. The manufacturing facility would later be built here, and named VentureTrans Manufacturing.

At the time ICTS made use of developing technologies such as automated computer control, steerable (radial) bogies, a cab-aspect moving block signalling system and a contactless linear induction magnetic propulsion system.

Production begins

By 1981, after much testing and debugging, UTDC was ready to start marketing the system, and throughout the year contracts were signed for the system. Vancouver signed on the dotted line on May 29th. The Borough of Scarborough and the Province of Ontario convinced the TTC to change their under-construction Scarborough Rapid Transit line to ICTS technology, and the TTC approved the change on June 16th. SEMTA, which was the original intended operator of the Detroit system, agreed to their contract on August 5th. The long dark spot was Hamilton - UTDC was hoping that Hamilton would be the first system built, but instead the City rejected the contract on December 15th. To this day Hamilton still has no true grade-separated rapid transit system.

Because Toronto's system was already partly constructed when the change was made to the ICTS technology, it was decided (after it was realized that Hamilton would likely pull out) that the Toronto system would become the first system in operation.

However, a short, 1 km section of track/guidway and a station were built and operated in the summer of 1983 in Vancouver, as an early demonstration of the ICTS system, as well as a "sneak peak" of sorts of the upcoming Expo '86. This was later integrated into the SkyTrain system, with the station being named Main Street-Science World.

The first production vehicle, TTC's 3000, was rolled out of the Millhaven plant on October 31, 1983. It and 3001 were kept at the Millhaven plant for post-production testing. 3002 and 3003 were the first cars delivered to Toronto - they were unloaded on April 17, 1984. After numerous delays, the Scarborough RT line was opened March 24, 1985.

The next system open was Vancouver's SkyTrain, designed both as a method to get people downtown faster and as a cornerstone for the 1986 World's Fair - of which the theme was "Transportation and Communication: World in Motion - World in Touch". It opened on December 11, 1985, and has quickly become the largest, both in terms of ridership and length, of any of the ICTS systems built.

Change of ownership and name

Shortly after the opening of the SkyTrain, the Liberal/NDP coalition Government of David Peterson announced that they were selling the majority of UTDC to Québec-based Lavalin for $50mil, while maintaining a 15% share.

Detroit's system, which was designed and is operated as a circular people mover (one of two such systems to open in the United States in the 1980's along with a people mover in Miami) rather than a true rapid transit system, was the last of the original three systems, opening on July 31, 1987 after numerous delays that resulted in SEMTA being fined by the United States government and the subsequent handover to the city of Detroit. Designed to be the final piece of a large transit network funnelling people into downtown Detroit, and in fact the original SEMTA plans also called for a Woodward Avenue subway that never broke ground, it remains the only portion built of their network, and is the least-used ICTS system in service, and between the 2003 closure of the Washington Boulevard Trolley and the 2017 opening of M-1 Rail QLINE, was the only rail-based transit system in Detroit.

At this time, Lavalin had overextended itself financially and was itself purchased by SNC in 1991. SNC-Lavalin Group, as they came to be called, reorganized its divisions and rolled UTDC into their Lavalin Industries division, which oversaw and operated the former Hawker Siddeley Canada operations.

SNC-Lavalin seemed quite content to sit on their laurels, although they would sell their entire Lavalin Industries division to Bombardier in the early 1990s.

Bombardier, on the other hand, was not and began agressively marketing the ICTS system - they also renamed the system Advanced Rapid Transit. Vehicles were updated with sleek ends, longer length, and open gangways. They landed their first sale to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia in 1994 - with SNC-Lavalin worked as an engineering partner on the project. It would open for service on September 1, 1998. In 1997, they won a contract to build a new ICTS line in Vancouver. The Millennium Line, as it is now called, was opened January 5, 2002. Bombardier won another contract in 1998 with the contract to build the people mover system for New York's JFK Airport. While it was plagued with delays, it opened for business on December 17, 2003. The last new system to open under this name was Beijing's, opening on July 19, 2008.

In 2010, Bombardier began using the INNOVIA name for its automated rail systems, including Advanced Rapid Transit. By the end of 2012, Kuala Lumpur and Vancouver placed additional vehicle orders for their expanding systems. It was around this time that Bombardier began using the Innovia Metro name. Seoul's system became the first new system to open under this name on April 23, 2013. In 2020, Riyadh Metro will become the last system to open under Bombardier's name.

How it works

Labeled parts of the propulsion system.

The linear induction propulsion system works similarly to that used by magnetic levitation (maglev) trains - the train essentially pulls itself by applying a magnetic polarity to the track. Whereas on a maglev the magnetic forces are also used to eliminating all contact between the train and the track, thereby minimizing rolling friction, the ICTS train uses the magnetic forces solely for propulsion and is supported by steel wheels on the steel rails. As well, on a maglev the track is actively charged and the polarity changed as the train passes over it. With a linear induction motor (LIM), the reaction rail carries no charge and so it is up to the motor on the vehicle to change polarity as it travels down the track.

Unlike many subways which use just three rails (or two rails and an overhead power source), the ICTS system requires 5 rails: 2 running rails, 1 +600Vdc, 1 -600Vdc, and one "reaction rail" that is used as half of the LIM.


The cars are considerably smaller than many heavy-rail subway systems. The Mark I ICTS car is only about 41 feet long by 8 feet wide by 10 feet tall, and weighs 23 tons with a full load. The carbody is constructed from aluminum with extruded elements that allow sheets to be welded from the inside. This reduces the need for grinding the exterior. The car uses bogies with steering axles which would wear less heavily on the rails and produce a quieter ride.

The Mark I car design is shared between the early operators of the ICTS system. While the Vancouver SkyTrain and Detroit People Mover are fully automated, Toronto's Scarborough RT has an operator on board. Therefore, their Mark I cars feature a full operator's cab at one end.

The Mark II car was first introduced in 1998 for Kuala Lumpur's Kelana Jaya Line. Mark II cars are longer and wider than Mark I cars. More customization is afforded to operators, and this is most apparent in the exterior appearance of the cars. In addition, most cars operate in sets with open gangways. Mark II cars continue to feature LIMs and steering axles.

The 300 or Mark III car is also constructed from aluminum. They are available in a standard width or wide body. Unlike previous vehicles, the option for conventional rotary motors is available alongside linear induction motors. The exterior and interior design is customizable to customer specification. Trains can be made of up to six cars long with open gangways in between.

Types of trains


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Saudi Arabia

South Korea

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SNC-Lavalin History
ICTS pamphlet at Mike's Transit Stop