Confederation Line will not be ready for handover by end of June

LRT

Ottawa’s light-rail transit line will not be ready by June 30 as promised due to issues with the trains, OC Transpo head John Manconi told Ottawa councillors Tuesday morning.

The city’s transit boss reaffirmed his commitment to delivering a near-perfect LRT system during his regular Confederation Line update to the finance and economic development committee. While Rideau Transit Group – the consortium of contractors building the east-west LRT line – felt its work had been completed back in May, city staff and an independent certifier disagreed and sent RTG back to work, primarily to address issues with the train fleet.

“The vehicles are not ready for prime time,” Manconi said, adding concerns about the doors failing to close properly, issues with braking system valves and communication system errors all need to be resolved before city staff are ready to sign off on the LRT system as “substantially complete.”

“This is on RTG. They need to step up their game and get this thing delivered,” Manconi said, noting his staff has been “unrelenting” in holding the transit group’s feet to the fire.

While RTG is the primary contractor on the line, trainmaker Alstom is largely responsible for the fleet as a subcontractor on the project. Major Jim Watson, who said during Tuesday’s meeting he was “fed up and frustrated with the delays” on the LRT line, called the president and CEO of Alstom Tuesday morning to invite him for a meeting with himself, the head of RTG and city staff in the next two weeks to discuss the issues with the line. Watson said the invitation was accepted.

No $1M penalty yet

This will mark the fourth delay for Ottawa’s LRT line, which was first slated for completion in May of 2018. No timeline has been given on when residents can expect to ride the train.

RTG will not, however, be hit with a $1-million penalty for the latest setback. That penalty only comes into effect when RTG has missed a revenue service availability (RSA) date, which marks when the system is ready to be handed over to the city. While RTG had previously said it would hand over the keys before June 30, it missed the May 31 deadline to actually provide city staff with that new RSA date.

RTG has instead asked for a two-week extension to provide a date while it addresses concerns with the trains, which Manconi said he granted. He said he didn’t want RTG to provide a date “just for the sake of giving a date.”

In addition to millions in milestone payments held back until construction and testing is fully complete, Manconi said RTG will be on the hook for the extra hours OC Transpo drivers are working, especially over holidays and weekends, in lieu of the LRT service.

Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubley said he would bring forward a motion at next week’s city council meeting to freeze fares ahead of a planned July 1 increase until the train is in service, while Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans suggested reducing fares by as much as 30 per cent and sticking RTG with the bill to make up for “sub-par” transit service.