Metrolinx recommends against Hamilton running its LRT

Artist rendering of Hamilton's LRT project.
Artist rendering of Hamilton's LRT project. City of Hamilton

Metrolinx says that while the Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) can run Hamilton’s LRT line, the Crown transit agency recommends against the idea.

In a letter to city manager Chris Murray, Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster warns that Hamilton would be forced to shoulder a list of onerous responsibilities and legal obligations as part of a local operations agreement.

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Verster adds that Metrolinx would also have to issue a new request for qualifications that could delay the project by up to five months.

According to a city staff report, a delay in the LRT project could cost the city nearly $1 million from the onset.

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger told 900 CHML’s Scott Radley Show that the letter may leave some people thinking twice about the idea.

“For those that have said right from the very beginning that they don’t want this system to cost the city of Hamilton a dime, I think they’ve got some serious thinking to do in terms of whether or not they should take on this level of responsibility.”

READ MORE: Hamilton mayor looks to install fibre optic technology in conjunction with LRT construction

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The city had asked for HSR to run the LRT until August when Metrolinx was already partway through finding companies to build and run the system.

The HSR subcommittee will discuss the issue further when it meets again on Friday.

All but two councillors voted in favour of asking Metrolinx to turn things over to HSR. Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also supports an LRT run by HSR.

READ MORE: Seamless transition promised as Hamilton’s LRT director moves to new role

Metrolinx would still own the LRT. In his letter, Verster wrote, “Metrolinx is prepared to remove operations from the current procurement and work with the city on the basis that HSR will take on both the commercial and operational obligations under contract, with Metrolinx remaining as the project owner.”

The debate over who should run Hamilton’s Light Rail Transit system took a different angle earlier this month, after a 19 per cent rate of absenteeism among HSR drivers was revealed, resulting in an average of 23 buses not showing up each day in October throughout the city.

The head of the union that represents Hamilton bus drivers blamed “understaffing” and “underfunding” for the crisis.

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