LRT will not be ready by March 31; city says handover now expected in Q2 2019

The consortium building the first phase of Ottawa’s light-rail transit system will miss its third handover deadline, with the system now expected to be delivered in the second quarter of the year.

Ottawa transit boss John Manconi announced the latest delay at the finance and economic development committee Tuesday morning alongside Peter Lauch, CEO of the Rideau Transit Group.

After missing its first two projected handover dates in May and November of 2018, RTG will now fly past its March 31 deadline for revenue-service availability – a standard reflecting substantial completion of nearly all elements of the LRT system. RTG informed the city on Feb. 28 that the first phase of the LRT line would not be ready by the end of March.

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Lauch told councillors that while he was pleased with progress since he last spoke to FEDCO in February, issues with track testing and fleet availability – caused in part by recent inclement weather – prompted RTG to delay the handover once again.

“We were not comfortable enough with where we were (on Feb. 28),” Lauch said, adding that he is now “confident” in the Q2 timeline. A firm handover date within that three-month range is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

As a result of this delay, RTG will be faced with additional costs associated with the ongoing development of the transit system as well as a second $1-million penalty for failing to meet its agreed-upon date.

Asked whether he was confident RTG will meet its new second-quarter timeline, Manconi replied, “We like what we see.”

Highlighting eight key factors that would determine when LRT will be ready for public use, in addition to winter readiness, Manconi said there has been “significant progress” in recent weeks on the outstanding elements such as station readiness and train testing.

Manconi acknowledged that the trains experienced issues related to Ottawa’s harsh winter weather over the past few weeks, such as frozen doors and getting stuck on the track. He noted RTG has adapted its winter readiness protocols since then and has consulted representatives from other North American cities such as Chicago and Boston that run trains in similar conditions. He also said that more trains running in full service will help keep the track clear of snow, adding similar models run routinely in Russian cities without regularly encountering trouble.

Manconi also told staff that the delay in phase one’s completion won’t affect the proposed extension to the line. Councillors will discuss the second-stage LRT procurement contract at Wednesday’s city council meeting.

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