Alstom says the City of Ottawa and RTG were “aware” that the light rail transit system was not ready to launch in 2019

French train maker Alstom suggests Ottawa’s $2.1 billion light rail transit system was launched in September 2019 when the City of Ottawa and Rideau Transit Group knew it was not ready for full service.

However, the City of Ottawa says “at no time” did Rideau Transit Maintenance or LRT contractors say the Confederation Line was not ready to roll for passenger service after the City Manager approved the launch.

The Ottawa Light Rail Public Inquiry released opening statements and interview transcripts from nearly 90 witnesses on Friday before public testimony begins on Monday. Forty-one witnesses are due to testify at the public inquiry between June 13 and July 8.

In its opening statement to the public inquiry, Alstom says the city and Rideau Transit Group, the consortium building the 12.5-kilometre line, knew there were problems with the system before it was launched.

“All parties knew the system was not ready for the tax department, but the city and RTG continued anyway,” the statement said.

“Rather than further delay the start of the revenue service, the city preferred to start the system by September 14, 2019, no matter what.”

Alstom adds that the City of Ottawa has refused to “accelerate” the service through a soft launch, which would allow the new system to “address operational and maintenance issues” before full capacity is reached. traffic.

Alstom built the Citadis Spirit trains for the Confederation Line, each two-car train capable of carrying up to 600 passengers. There were 34 cars built for the launch.

“For RTG and (OLRT-Constructors), the motivation was financial,” explains Alstom.

Mayor Jim Watson told the public inquiry that city staff were “pleased” that the LRT system was substantially complete and ready to go.

“Ultimately when they came to me with the final decision that they were ready to use RSA, I think in August of that year, I wanted to make sure that – one hundred percent sure that they were satisfied that the system we were getting was going to be safe, secure and reliable,” Watson said. “Staff assured me that was the case.

Ottawa’s LRT system was handed over to the city on August 30, 2019 and launched to the public on September 14.

In the City of Ottawa’s opening statement, the city said it was “in no rush to open the system,” noting that it had refused to accept that “substantial completion” had was reached in May 2019.

“The City has been and remains focused on public safety, reliability and customer experience for light rail in Ottawa,” the City’s statement read.

The city says when Rideau Transit Group delivered its second “Notice of Substantial Completion” in July 2019, the city was able to “return a positive opinion” that it was ready.

The City of Ottawa says the final decision to open the system was made by City Manager Steve Kanellakos, who had delegated authority to sign off on the launch after staff approval. The city notes that Rideau Transit Group nor the builders of the OLRT “at no time” suggested that the system was not ready to operate or that Rideau Transit Maintenance was not ready to meet its maintenance obligations. .

“In fact, the reverse happened as RTG was eager to complete RSA and secure its final milestone payment of $202 million. RTG was aware of the launch date of 14 September 2019 from the city well in advance and has been consulted regarding the city’s launch plans,” the city said.

On the question of a “soft start”, the city notes that there was no soft start clause in the contract. Peter Lauch of the Rideau Transit Group told the inquest that the idea of ​​a soft launch was rejected by OC Transpo management.

The city says it “remained concerned about the ability and commitment” of Rideau Transit Group and its contractors to “properly maintain the system”, nearly three years after launch.

“When RTG exercises, performance improves. However, as noted by the independent expert retained by the City, Mott MacDonald, RTG has failed to implement a proactive approach to maintenance and management of assets, which led RTG to the short-term view and piecemeal responses to issues arising during the maintenance period.”

The Public Inquiry will hold public hearings from June 13 to July 8 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The hearings will be held at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ottawa and will be broadcast on Rogers TV.

Forty-one witnesses are scheduled to testify, including Watson, OC Transpo general manager John Manconi, city manager Steve Kanellakos and representatives from RTM and Alstom.

To read the transcripts, visit Ottawa LRT Public Inquiry website.

Jose P. Rogers