City staff were aware of reliability issues with Ottawa’s light rail transit system prior to launch

Day nine of the Ottawa Light Rail Public Inquiry revealed that city staff were aware of system reliability issues prior to launch in September 2019.

The admission was made during testimony by city staffer Richard Holder on Thursday.

“The city knew there were reliability issues that could interfere with providing reliable service to the public,” Kate McGrann, co-lead counsel at the investigation, asked.

“That’s right,” Holder testified.

Holder then revealed that there were signs that the LRT would not function properly after launch.

“In July 2019, during the trial you were conducting, when you were actually running the trains up and down the tracks, you were demonstrating that there were significant issues with the reliability of the track,” asked John McLuckie, attorney for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 during testimony.

“There were reliability issues, yes,” Holder replied.

McGrann then asked Holder if the city knew there was a real risk of further problems being uncovered as the system continued to operate.

“There was potential for that risk,” Holder replied.

Mr. Holder oversaw portions of the Stage 1 LRT project at the City of Ottawa Rail Office.

Thursday’s testimony also highlighted how the city knew there was a shortage of maintenance personnel as launch preparations were underway.

“Alston’s maintenance team was understaffed at this point in 2019,” McLuckie asked.

Holder confirmed that was the case and when asked what the city had done in response, he said the staffing issue was raised during the trial period as there were concerns about the number of people to undertake the interview.

He said the city moved forward with the launch in September 2019 because the team felt the requirements of the project agreement had been met.

When asked if he or anyone in town knew the system was unsafe to launch or unfit to use, Holder said no during his testimony.

Jose P. Rogers