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Ottawa pushing Rideau Transit Group to fix LRT issues by end of August

City staff say getting Ottawa's LRT up to full service by the end of August is important for OC Transpo's transit service restoration plan following the COVID-19 pandemic's disruption.
City staff say getting Ottawa's LRT up to full service by the end of August is important for OC Transpo's transit service restoration plan following the COVID-19 pandemic's disruption. Nick Westoll / File / Global News

City staff are pushing Rideau Transit Group (RTG) to remedy the outstanding issues with Ottawa’s light-rail transit system by the end of August, but the consortium responsible for building and maintaining the LRT line is expecting work to last for the rest of 2020.

Ottawa’s director of rail Michael Morgan gave a presentation to city council Wednesday on the status of the Confederation Line LRT, which has been plagued by issues such as door jams and insufficient train availability.

READ MORE: Ottawa LRT shutting down for May maintenance, phase 2 extension work

Morgan said RTG provided an updated plan to the city on April 24 to fix these outstanding issues, but it was missing a key piece of information: a firm timeline on when Ottawa will have an LRT system that consistently achieves the standards the city set out in the original contract to build the phase one light-rail line.

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Some of the issues with fixing the LRT’s outstanding issues are exacerbated by the novel coronavirus pandemic, which is constraining global supply chains.

This is a primary concern for fixing the LRT’s troublesome auxiliary power units, which require parts made in Europe.

John Manconi, the city’s transit boss, said Wednesday that RTG had told him verbally that work needed to remedy LRT’s long-standing issues will likely stretch into the end of 2020.

Ottawa mayor says ‘buck stops’ with him on LRT issues
Ottawa mayor says ‘buck stops’ with him on LRT issues

He told council that he pushed back on RTG’s timeline, asking executives to get the work done by the end of August.

Getting Ottawa’s LRT back up to full operations by that date will be key to the city’s transit service restoration plan, Manconi said, which he is due to report at a special transit commission scheduled for June 1.

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“We have a restoration plan that depends on rail,” he said.

The pandemic has been a boon for RTG, as the decreased ridership has allowed it to fully close the system for seven total days across two periods to complete needed maintenance work.

Morgan said the Confederation Line is also only running nine double trains at peak periods during the pandemic, with seven under maintenance and two in reserve.

READ MORE: Ottawa citizen transit commissioners to hold ‘informal’ chat to replace cancelled city meetings

“The fact that RTG has seven double trains in its maintenance shop, essentially at all times, lets them get ahead of their modification program,” Morgan said.

Manconi noted that problems with the trains are often outside of the city’s purview, as the contract for the vehicles is between RTG and trainmaker Alstom, directly.

Manconi said he’s told RTG that the consortium needs to hold Alstom’s feet to the fire to get the trains in a reliable working condition — regardless of any pandemic disruptions.