Public inquiry into Ottawa’s light rail begins Monday

Mayor Jim Watson says city staff have given the green light for the City of Ottawa to launch the $2.1 billion light rail transit system in the summer of 2019.

The Ottawa Light Rail Public Inquiry released transcripts of 87 witness interviews on Friday before public hearings began on Monday. The commission spoke with several representatives of the City of Ottawa, Rideau Transit Group, Rideau Transit Maintenance and Alstom.

During his three hours of testimony and opening statements on April 28, Watson said he was concerned about build delays and reboots during pre-launch testing, but staff “were happy” to be able to agree. the system as “substantially complete and start revenue service”. .”

“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.

Watson told the inquest he was ‘not an expert in running a rail system’ and relied on the professional expertise of staff and consultants when building and launching the system .

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

Former OC Transpo general manager John Manconi told the commission that not all problems with the LRT system occurred during testing.

Manconi oversaw the launch of the Confederation Line. Commission counsel asked Manconi if ​​any of the city’s experts had raised concerns with him prior to launch about the demands of Rideau Transit’s maintenance crew and its ability to respond to requests.

“Again, there was a general concern about consistency and the ability to run the system, get it working and maintain it,” Manconi said during his May 2 interview. “But in terms of competing demands on building and maintaining the trains, none that I remember as being a major impediment to success.”

Manconi told the inquest the city had a panel of 40 experts to help develop oversight of the system.

“The city did – exceeded what it could and should have done theoretically, technically and contractually,” Manconi said. “My view is that we have a maintainer who has either grossly underestimated or for some reason failed to stay on top of the maintenance of a complicated railroad’s integrated system.”

Former Rideau Transit Group executive Peter Lauch told the commission that RTG had considered a soft launch of the system before boosting reliability, but the idea was rejected by Manconi.

“That meant instead of, you know, launching the full fleet of vehicles, a reduced number — sort of a reduced number of 16 vehicles, maybe, you know, even shorter,” Lauch said.

“You know, instead of running until 1 a.m. every morning, maybe bring it back to 12 p.m. or even 11 a.m., just because that would give you more time for maintenance.”

Lauch admitted during his interview that there was “still pressure” to complete the LRT system. He was asked if there was any political pressure to launch the launch in 2019.

“There was probably because I mean, you know, a huge ad campaign and a lot of engagements, and that’s important, you know, the politician doesn’t want to lose face,” Launch said. “So, I mean, it could have led to it, but like I said, I mean, it didn’t take away all the peripheral systems, all the supporting systems. I mean, if we failed the safety issue, if we failed something, we wouldn’t have passed.”

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 due to testify, including Watson, Manconi, city manager Steve Kanellakos and officials from RTM and Alstom.

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

Jose P. Rogers