Independent certifier says LRT isn’t ‘substantially complete’ yet: City of Ottawa memo

A coupled Ottawa LRT train in the underground Parliament station downtown. City of Ottawa

An independent certifier hired by the City of Ottawa and the builder of the $2.1-billion Confederation Line has sided with the city and rejected the Rideau Transit Group’s (RTG) claim that the LRT system is “substantially complete,” according to a memo issued by the city on Wednesday.

A status of “substantial completion” means that construction of the 12.5-kilometre, 13-stop train is finished and the system is effectively ready to go.

“Broadly, the (independent certifier) agrees with the City’s opinion that RTG has not achieved Substantial Completion and agrees that additional work is required,” said the memo from Michael Morgan, director of the city’s rail construction program.

“Despite (the certifier’s) assessment, it is important to note that RTG has been continuing work on all areas in an effort to close out issues throughout the Confederation Line system,” the memo continued.

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Mayor Jim Watson and city councillors learned on Friday that RTG had submitted the paperwork for “substantial completion” and the city had reviewed the application.

OC Transpo boss John Manconi said the city determined the system didn’t quite meet “the technical definition of substantial completion” because “outstanding work of varying degrees remains” on the east-west line — which is nearly a year behind schedule.

Manconi emphasized, in particular, a “wide range” of outstanding, minor issues with the train cars. The LRT’s fleet consists of 34 vehicles, all of which are operational and being tested on the tracks, according to OC Transpo.

READ MORE: No launch date for Ottawa LRT but builder applies to move on to critical 12-day trial run

On Wednesday, Manconi said the city had received the independent certifier’s assessment on Monday afternoon and had been reviewing it since. While he refrained from getting into specifics during a phone interview after the memo’s release, Manconi said that the certifier “generally” agreed with the issues the city had outlined.

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The real focus, I think, the brunt of the work will be with the vehicles,” Manconi said. “Like I said (on Friday), there’s some really simple tasks, like letters that just need to be provided.

“The list is not a mile long. Everything is fixable. They just need to have a clear plan as to how to get to those.”

READ MORE: OC Transpo LRT train partially derails at Belfast depot

RTG has to provide a “corrective action plan” for addressing the outstanding issues to the certifier and the city by end-of-day Tuesday.

The consortium can re-apply for substantial completion after that. The certifier was chosen together by the city and RTG, who are sharing the cost 50-50, according to Manconi.

‘We’re aligned on the path forward’: Manconi

The certifier also recommended “a joint meeting with RTG and the city to discuss the issues noted in the …. assessment,” according to the memo. That meeting has been scheduled, Manconi confirmed.

“There’s clarity on what needs to be done,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing for all parties — for the taxpayers, for the consortium and for the city.”

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Speaking to reporters earlier on Wednesday after a transit commission meeting at city hall, Manconi said that city officials already met with RTG representatives on Tuesday and suggested the two parties see eye-to-eye on next steps.

“We’re aligned on the path forward,” Manconi told reporters, saying he wouldn’t comment on what RTG said during that meeting.

Prolonged bus detours associated with the Confederation Line’s delay, along with road closures, traffic delays and the impending construction season, are creating “some tough commutes for everyone right now,” Manconi conceded on Wednesday morning.

“That’s why I continue to push RTG: ‘You need to launch the train, get these detours off,'” he said. “And that’ll ease congestion, not just for buses but also for other commuters.”

Project’s ‘long-stop’ date falls next week

News of the independent certifier’s decision comes a week and a half before the project’s “long-stop” date, which — according to the project agreement — falls “365 days after the required revenue service availability date” (or the original handover date).

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The train was first scheduled to be delivered to the City of Ottawa on May 24, 2018, a deadline that was pushed to Nov. 2 and delayed once again to March 31, 2019. The consortium missed the March target date as well.

If RTG doesn’t achieve revenue service availability by the “long-stop” date, the consortium will be in default of the project agreement and the city will have the right to terminate it, according to the document.

READ MORE: City of Ottawa’s auditor general plans to probe Stage 2 LRT procurement

There was no word of an LRT launch date during Friday’s update. Manconi said that RTG continues to tell the city it will deliver the train by the end of June.

RTG has several hurdles left to pass before it hands over the LRT, including a trial run, during which the train has to simulate “flawless” service for 12 straight days.

Once it has possession of the train, the city says it will need up to four weeks to prepare the system for launch day.

All 13 stations along the LRT line have received occupancy permits and are in the stages of final cleanup, Manconi reported on Friday.

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