Confederation Line progress on track, Ottawa transit boss confident in LRT summer launch

LRT
Photo by Craig Lord

While all 13 stations on the Confederation Line have occupancy permits, more work still needs to be done on the vehicles themselves before light rail is ready to roll, OC Transpo boss John Manconi said Friday.

In his monthly update to the finance and economic development committee, Manconi said he is still confident that the contractors behind the $2.1-billion east-west LRT line, the Rideau Transit Group, will be able to hand over the keys to the city by the end of June.

“If they make that date, we’re into a summer launch,” he said.

Manconi said the system would then require about four weeks of further final testing before it’s opened to the public, meaning it will likely be the end of July at the earliest before Ottawans are riding the rails.

Manconi said all 34 light-rail cars are now being run on the track, but noted “minor defects” in the vehicles remain. He said it’s up to Alstom, the manufacturer of the trains, to fix them before they’re certified safe for use.

Manconi would not go into details, saying only the vehicles have “typical” problems for a new train system.

“Everything that we’re seeing is fixable,” he told the committee. “We need to send a clear message to RTG that Alstom needs to focus on those vehicles. You’ve got to get those trains done.”

Manconi said all the LRT stations are in the final cleanup stages and are almost ready for public use, adding RTG has made “significant progress” in finalizing all elements of the 12.5-kilometre track that runs from Tunney’s Pasture in the west to Blair Station in the east.

“There are no show-stoppers outside of the vehicles that are problematic,” he told councillors.

The consortium has submitted its “substantial completion” paperwork, Manconi said, and an independent certifier from Altus Group is now reviewing the documents to determine if RTG has met all the conditions of its agreement with the city.

The certifier has until 4 p.m. on Monday to respond. If RTG’s work gets the thumbs-up, trains will be tested for 12 days to ensure the system is in “near-perfect” operating condition. Once all the criteria are met, it will be about a month before the Confederation Line is ready for a public launch, Manconi added.

The Rideau Transit Group has already missed three handover deadlines ​– in May and November of last year and on March 31 of this year ​– and has been penalized a total of $2 million for failing to meet the past two targets.

“They’re feeling a lot of financial pain,” Manconi said, noting the group won’t receive its first $59-million payment until the city is satisfied the system is free of all major glitches.

Manconi also provided an update on last Friday’s train derailment at the Belfast yard, saying it was a result of “human error” related to a manually operated track switch. All switches on the main line are automated, he added.

The problem required only “minor repairs” and no trains were damaged, Manconi said.