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Crucial 12-day test of Ottawa’s LRT service has begun, city says

The trial run of Ottawa's LRT service could begin as early as Monday. City of Ottawa

The builder of Ottawa’s delayed Confederation Line has begun a critical 12-day test of the entire east-west light-rail system after the City of Ottawa announced this weekend that the $2.1-billion LRT has achieved “substantial completion.”

“This important milestone signifies that the O-Train Confederation Line project has advanced to the point where construction and testing [are] effectively complete,” OC Transpo boss John Manconi wrote in a memo addressed to members of Ottawa city council on Saturday.

“This applies to all fixed components (stations, rail, etc.) and vehicles and means that there is no restriction on the city’s public use of the system.”

READ MORE: Builder of Ottawa’s LRT applies for ‘substantial completion’ again

Manconi’s memo said both the city and its independent certifier agreed the Rideau Transit Group (RTG) met “all the conditions associated with substantial completion” and RTG planned to begin the 12-day trial run “the week of July 29.”

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“We can confirm that RTG has commenced trial running,” the transportation manager said in a statement sent via a city spokesperson on Monday.

The city will pay the consortium about $59 million for reaching this stage.

The 12-day trial run marks a crucial period ahead of the LRT finish line. The city won’t accept the keys to the system until RTG has successfully completed this test run.

In order to pass, the Confederation Line has to mimic the system’s entire service for 12 consecutive days without a major hitch. If a serious problem occurs during the testing, RTG will have restart the trial run, Manconi said earlier this month.

READ MORE: Builder of Ottawa LRT sets new handover date of August 16

RTG’s latest commitment to OC Transpo is that it will hand over the train on Aug. 16 — more than a year late. Saturday’s news leaves RTG with an approximately three-week window to pass the trial run in order to make its latest deadline.

At this point, the earliest the trial run could wrap up — assuming testing goes smoothly as of Monday — is Aug. 9.

Manconi has said OC Transpo needs up to four weeks to prepare the LRT line for launch day after taking possession of the train.

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That timeline points to a launch day around mid-September at the earliest if the city receives the LRT before or on Aug. 16.

READ MORE: Ottawa transit: Month-long service changes for Trillium Line start July 15

In the meantime, Manconi said a “trial-running review team” will scrutinize the system’s performance during the testing period. That team’s membership includes representatives from RTG, Rideau Transit Maintenance, city staff and the city’s independent certifier, according to the city.

“Critical elements” that will be monitored during the trial run, according to Manconi, include the system’s safety, its operations, end-to-end travel times, maintenance activities and vehicle performance. Other elements — like public address systems, escalators, elevators, CCTV cameras and tunnel ventilation — will be tracked as well, he said.

The independent certifier will sign off on whether the trial-running requirements have been met.

Manconi also noted that it’s possible the public may not see any trains on the tracks “on occasions” during the trial run phase.

“This is normal as there are many different systems being tested at different times throughout this period,” he wrote on Saturday.

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